#111 Blowing off their Security Officers
Submitted by Humaniterial Girl: Follow her on Twitter: @HumaniterialGal.
So you’re 36 years old and find yourself running down the road with three colleagues in Pétion-ville, Haiti at 230am on a Saturday morning, hiding behind cars (phew you came in the unmarked hire car tonight and left the logo-emblazoned Land Cruiser at home) because Annoyed Response Director is apparently on his way to bust you for breaking curfew. Which suggests ARD himself is also breaking curfew but logic is not the point here.
This is the curse of the EAW working for a conservative NGO with security restrictions so tight that if actually followed, you would leave most EAW parties before they even began. You’d like to say that you haven’t behaved like this since you were 16, except there is no way you ever behaved like this at 16, or 26 come to think of it. So what is it about being on deployment that makes you revert to behavior that was too infantile to engage in at school even when everyone else was doing it? Are you about to start up smoking as well? Indulge in a little toilet-wall graffiti to out the married men (sorry “geographically single” men) trying to hook up with anyone and everyone? It’s tempting.
But why break curfew? Have you finally succumbed to the sort of peer-pressure you so artfully resisted during your youth? Are you that desperate to get out of the Team House and skull a few Presidentes? Well yes, it would appear so. But more than that, it tells you something about NGO security procedures, and the confidence you have in your security officer.
There comes a time in every EAW’s life when they rate themselves more highly than their security officer. You realize a) you know more about security than they do b) you have been to way more dodgy locations than they have and c) you have better connections outside the organization so can send an urgent tweet for that UN helicopter if and when necessary. At times you’ve felt safer in active conflict with a security officer you trust, than in less volatile contexts with a security officer who is young/ inexperienced /unfit and overweight/a bit thick = liability. And why is it that most NGOs set their curfews later on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights? Is it really more dangerous to be out partying on a Monday evening? Seems unlikely.
Secretly, most EAWs do not trust their security officers and consider them either too slack or too strict, and usually both at the same time. The past Presidential elections in Haiti are a good example. Some agencies were in lockdown from Friday evening until Monday morning. Some were in lockdown for election-day only. And yours? Well nothing at all, except a message to say that bars and restaurants would be closing down at 8pm on Saturday evening. So go out and get your burgers early folks!
It’s hard to know what to do about such security advice. You don’t want to become one of those arrogant blasé types that thinks you know better than everybody else. But for now at least, you’re going to keep relying on your experience, intuition…and making friends with UN helicopter pilots.