Naga Village, Burma


Expeditions are inherently risky

It’s part of their appeal and they would not be attractive to teammates if they were not. Secret Compass conducts expeditions that are full of inherent risk due to their geographical location, the type of travelling done and the activities undertaken. By joining a Secret Compass expedition you are accepting these risks. This page outlines the Secret Compass approach to risk management. In short, we identify hazards, minimise the likelihood of anything happening in the first place and then reduce the consequences if it does.

Military-grade risk management

The Secret Compass approach to risk has evolved from its director’s time in the military, where high-risk activities take place on a routine basis. It has also evolved from Secret Compass’s considerable experience in managing high threats and risks in operational environments, where a constant and dynamic evaluation and re-evaluation of risk is critical to success. Secret Compass uses industry guidance (BS 8848 and ISO 31000) to inform its risk management policy, and its operational staff are qualified as Security Risk Management Consultants (Level V) and hold the Royal Geographical Society’s Off-Site Safety Management qualification. This solid background gives Secret Compass the confidence to analyse risk in detail and to conduct expeditions that others may not wish to. Secret Compass’s approach to risk management has been further honed providing risk management and consultancy services to TV and Film – being a trusted partner of organisations such as the BBC, Channel 4, Netflix and Discovery.

A three-stage approach to risk


1. Assess

Secret Compass carries out a full threat and risk assessment prior to each expedition. We identify potential threats and hazards and put measures in place to reduce the likelihood of these occurring and the severity if they do occur. This reduces the risks as far as reasonably possible given the locations we go to and the activities we conduct. At this stage we accept some risks as inherent to what we do and it is the responsibility of team members planning to join our expeditions to decide if they are happy to accept these risks too.

2. Plan

The essential next step after the above risk assessment stage is to develop a plan to put in place the mitigation measures identified. Secret Compass includes the following in its consideration of and planning for any expedition or project.

  • A detailed expedition plan.
  • A detailed medical plan for all stages of the expedition, including facilities and assets in country, extraction plans and reaction times.
  • An expedition medic and comprehensive expedition medicine pack.
  • A detailed communication plan (we always carry two forms of satellite communication).
  • Thorough briefing on risks and risk mitigation measures.
  • Training if required.

3. Deliver

Our expedition leaders are highly experienced and responsible for the dynamic risk management on the expedition; that is to say: they implement the plan. In the unlikely event of an incident or emergency, we have pre-written and practiced contingency, incident and emergency and communication plans that are immediately put into place in order to resolve the specific situation. The key to this is the pre-planning that has gone into this so our procedures can be enacted swiftly.

Informed consent

Many people travel with Secret Compass because they feel that we have taken a comprehensive approach to risk assessment, risk mitigation and risk management. If you have any questions about Secret Compass’s approach, contact us. Risk assessments, mitigation techniques, comprehensive planning and highly experienced leaders do not ‘make expeditions safe’. Expeditions are inherently risky endeavours and it is the responsibility of each team member to decide whether they want to accept the risks as outlined, in joining an expedition team. It is up to each team member to research and take out a suitable (and compulsory) insurance policy for the duration of their expedition.