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What Makes a HEAT course a HEAT course?

An overwhelming number of safety and security trainings are available to organisations today. Hostile environment awareness training (HEAT) courses are one of these. They have become so popular that the label has become ubiquitous, being applied to everything from one-day to week-long courses. The curriculums might simply be on travel security or cover everything from kidnap response to off-road driving skills. How then should organisations decide when their staff need a HEAT course and what they should be learning while there? What should an organisation look for from HEAT course providers? From Safer Edge’s perspective, there are three critical elements to consider before picking a HEAT course:


Which locations does the organisation consider ‘high risk’ or ‘hostile’? Not all organisations classify ‘hostile environments’ in the same way. This will depend on the organisation’s ability to respond to significant health and security threats, as well as what kinds of threat are actually present. For example, for some organisations Nairobi is an R&R destination and for others a hostile environment. Threats

Hostile environments will have different threats from lower-risk environments for which other trainings would be more suitable. All staff who travel should have some type of security training but not all staff need HEAT training. Hostile environments have threats present such as:Critical road hazards: including carjacking, hostile checkpoints and ambushes;

  • Sexual harassment and violence;

  • Arrest, detention and kidnapping; and

  • Lack of access to emergency services or critical rapid medical care.

Response Criticality

Would the wrong response in an environment put somebody’s life in danger? If the answer is ‘yes’, then it is likely to be a hostile environment. If staff behaviour is critical to survival – either because emergency health care is inadequate or because of widespread use of weapons and violence, or because staff require interpersonal skills and resilience to simply survive and be healthy – then HEAT training is the right choice. So - what is a HEAT course?

As a provider of HEAT courses, Safer Edge believes it is important to tell all our participants what is and what is not a HEAT course. HEAT courses prepare people to respond appropriately and look after themselves in environments such as those described above. For a HEAT course to be a ‘HEAT course’ the curriculum must prepare participants to engage with the location and threats in a way that gives them the best chance of survival. We believe that to teach that curriculum a HEAT course must be four days, or longer. Less than four days does not give learners adequate time to engage with the curriculum. And, while there are lots of ways to facilitate those 4+ days we believe that simulation is another critical learning element. Simulation gives learners a chance to actively engage with their learning. This is why our HEAT course curriculum is integrated into a single, four-day simulation. It is also why our courses spend more than a day on remote first aid. We want participants know what they are supposed to do, but also have the ability and confidence to put everything they have learnt into practice in any environment to which they travel. If your staff are going to freeze in the face of an emergency situation we want them to do that on our HEAT course rather than after a life-threatening car accident in Pakistan, or in the midst of a terrorist attack in Mali. To ensure that the simulation provides the most realistic experience possible, course facilitators integrate elements of the simulated context into the course, both in formal sessions and in informal interactions with participants. We hire professional actors and drivers, use props, blank-firing weapons, and trauma kits to ensure that the simulation is realistic. Making our HEAT courses the best they can be involves continual learning on our part. Each year we conduct a learning review and update our HEAT course curriculum and simulation to reflect participant feedback and the changing global context. If your organisation would like a copy of the Learning Review please send us an email:

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