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Hostile environment awareness training (HEAT/HEFAT)

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Please note, this training is temporarily suspended while we make alternative arrangements for accommodation and training venues.

Please check back later for the 2020 course dates.

Commonly known as Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) or Hostile Environment and First Aid Training (HEFAT), safety and security training is essential for humanitarian aid workers, human rights defenders, freelance journalists and others working in violent environments or remote areas. Unlike many courses of this nature, our flagship training has been designed from the ground up specifically by and for NGOs.

Using workshops, role plays, demonstrations and realistic scenarios, our unique four-day course teaches students the importance of risk assessments and a security mindset, and trains them to recognise and avoid threats to their safety and security, as well as how to respond quickly and effectively should security or medical incidents occur.

“An incredibly valuable week. The Open Briefing team were extremely skilled at tailoring the training to our needs. An eye-opening, thought-provoking and heart-pounding course.”
Homer Venters, Director of Programmes, Physicians for Human Rights

Although this course includes classroom sessions, the focus is on scenario-based training, which provides students with genuine experiential learning by immersing them in the training and provides important opportunities for feedback and reflection. We develop the scenarios specifically for the students attending each course and the settings that they will be working in. Our scenarios are all based on real-life examples and the latest research into NGO security incidents. Unlike many old-fashioned training providers, we do not believe that there are any  benefits to building ‘stress inoculation’ into our security courses, and you will not be submitted to a mock kidnapping or other unhelpful scenarios.

This residential course is physically and mentally demanding. Students will work long days, and spend a considerable amount of time outdoors in all weathers. However, our friendly instructors are there to facilitate your learning and ensure your comfort and safety. Accommodation and facilities are basic but comfortable. Food is plentiful, and our chef prepares all meals using fresh, local produce. As a reward, the final evening offers students the opportunity for a hearty meal and a few drinks with the instructors at a nearby traditional Cornish inn!

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Our syllabus is based on Level IC of the recommended curriculum drawn up by the European Interagency Security Forum (EISF) and InterAction. Students are expected to complete a pre-course reading list as part of the training. Clients can choose to add optional extra days to the standard four-day course if there is additional specialist training that they would benefit from, including off-road driving, advanced first aid or counter- and anti-surveillance, for example. We maintain an excellent ratio of 1:6 instructors to students.

Students that successfully complete the course will receive a Certificate of Achievement from Open Briefing plus an enhanced Level 2 Emergency First Aid at Work Certificate valid for three years. The course fee includes all training, accommodation and meals. Dates are available all year round.

Course syllabus

1) Security risk management

  • Understanding your operating environment
  • The security risk management framework
  • Risk assessments
  • Security plans
  • Hibernation, relocation and evacuation
  • Crisis management

2) First aid

  • Catastrophic bleeding
  • Basic CPR
  • Breaks and burns
  • Environmental illness and injury (e.g. heat exhaustion, heat stroke, frostbite and hypothermia)
  • Vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration
  • Common medical emergencies
  • First aid kits and improvisation

3) Building security

  • Office security
  • Residential/hotel security
  • Safe rooms
  • Fire safety

4) Safe movement

  • Vehicle convoy procedures
  • Procedures for legal and illegal checkpoints
  • Vehicle safety and maintenance
  • Route planning and navigation
  • Crowds, mobs and demonstrations
  • What to do during a carjacking

5) Weapons and explosives

  • Actions on direct and indirect fire
  • Improvised explosive devices (IEDs), unexploded ordnance (UXOs), landmines and booby traps
  • Unloading and making a weapon safe (including pistols and assault rifles)
  • Understanding and using body armour
  • Surviving an active shooter

6) Kidnap awareness and hostage survival

  • What to do during an abduction, in captivity and during a rescue
  • Sexual assault awareness
  • Conflict management and de-escalation
  • Self-defence
  • Restraint escape techniques

7) Communications

  • Radio and sat phone basics
  • Communication plans
  • GPS trackers
  • Information security

8) Resilience

  • Survival psychology
  • Survival skills
  • Grab bags
  • Mental health

Optional: Off-road driving (1 day)

 Please contact us for more information and to book a course.

Open Briefing is a member of the International NGO Safety & Security Association, BOND and the Charities Security Forum. We are a certified social enterprise.


Open Briefing is a certified social enterprise and a member of
the International NGO Safety and Security Association and CIVICUS