Humanitarian Bazaar | Focus: Safety & Security in Hostile Environments
Humanitarian Bazaar produces projects focused on how peope survive war and disaster.
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Photo: Mogadishu residents come to see the aftermath of a terror bombing. Daniel J Gerstle.


Prior to working and living in war and hostile environments, we strongly recommend that people of all walks of life take some form of first aid and survival techniques training. Most emergency aid workers and war journalists enroll in an intensive weekend or week long hostile environment training with simulations. At HB, we provide this with trainers who have a mix of humanitarian, as well as military and war journalism experience. But if people are traveling to tough places without time to take such an intensive training, we can also provide a webinar primer so that trainees at least know what kind of additional training focus they should have along the way. Choose your mode and price, and let us know at

Choose your mode and price ===>

A. Online Rapid Course Webinar

$40 = Webinar (2 hours) |  $80 = Webinar+ (2 hrs plus personal call with instructor for personal consultation or to call in to talk to your organization)  |  Free for past HB team.  |  We are currently rewarding donors to our War Survivors Advisory civilian protection project and past HB team members with attendance to our webinars! HB team members of the past can attend online for free. WSA donors who donated $40 or more are invited to choose one webinar as a reward! WSA donors who supported with $80 or more can choose one webinar and also get a direct consultation call with our trainer or a team member for personal advice, solve a question for your career, or call in to give a talk to your class room or organization. Let us know your interest and we will schedule a session with you!  Donate and then let us know which course and your best time frame so we can confirm with the trainer, or you can also plan the webinar first and then donate the day of the webinar session. Let us know at and go here to donate. ===> WSA

B. Full Intensive Training Workshop

$120/person = Weekend Rapid Course with Short Simulation (12 hours, minimum 6 people) or $240/person = Week-Long Intensive Course with Simulation (24 hours, minimum 10 people)  |  Request a full-scale in-person training workshop with practicum at your location! Ask us if there will be a training near you! Sometimes we have a number of people in key places–namely Berlin, Amsterdam, Sarajevo, Nairobi, Istanbul, Kabul, Beirut–who have put in a request and we just wait until we have enough of a group and we can write to you and plan a date, so just let us know your interest at

C. Contract 

$400/day+ transport & lodging for Expert > $150/day+ expenses for local Field Worker/Fixer (depending on location) for Project Implementation, Private Intensive Training, or Field Research. | Hire a trainer, consultant or implementing team to run a full intensive course designed for your organization, or have us build a consulting team on this topic to implement projects with you.

Review Our Curriculum ===>

Part 1  |  Safety & Security Minimums

  • If you are living in or heading to a hostile environment, we strongly recommend you enroll in an intensive 3-5 day course which covers “hostile environment & first aid training” (sometimes called HEFAT or HEAT). These courses normally focus sharply on emergency first aid, communications, communications equipment, vehicles, whether to have armed or no armed escort, flack jackets, helmets, and building acceptance in the local community. We can provide courses and simulation exercises which we have done before with our trainers who have both humanitarian nonviolent security planning experience in the field, as well as former military training, so they understand each side.
  • However, we know this is sometimes too expensive for the majority of people, especially on the local and working class level who can rarely afford a training course, flack jacket, helmet, or radio. But at a minimum, if the HEFAT course and gear are not available in time, you should at least get oriented with a consultation from someone who is deeply experienced in multiple conflict zones. Remember that each conflict zone can differ wildly for how locals and internationals can move around safely.
  • Given those disclaimers, that you should have an intensive HEFAT course and gear if possible, we can still also provide primer webinars or private consultations to help you choose a HEFAT course or to get oriented on the way to the field. Here’s an overview.


Part 2  |  Safety & Security: Acceptance

  • Many experienced war survivors and responders argue that safety and security in the crisis zone is perhaps more contingent on how and whether the local community authorities–not necessarily the state but whomever is in charge of power and law in the area–accept you and your team than any other factor. That is especially true when an accusation against an organization or individual can ignite a mass protest or specific targeting. You may need the local civilian authorities or members of the community to rally to your aid to stop attackers with less risk of blow back than if an armed security force swept in.
  • Local impartial civilians, local political civilians, local armed groups, foreign impartial civilians, foreign civilian groups attached to armed groups, and foreign armed groups are all accepted or confronted by local authorities on a different set of conditions that every person must very seriously research and consider before moving around.
  • For example, impartial civilian aid workers or crisis journalists entering a new hostile area must review how the local authority decides whether to accept them, whether to protect them from internal threats, or whether to not protect them from internal threats based on factors ranging from constant (do you have a passport from a country that is blamed for political conflict here? do you have an ethnic similarity to a group blamed for political conflict here? do you have something on your person or gear, like a large video camera, or a crucifix necklace, or an Islamic prayer cloth, that the local authority has clearly stated its opposition to?) to variable (are you associating with other impartial groups that can ensure the authority does not feel threatened by you? are you traveling according to the rules of the road and radio the authority has declared?).
  • And of course, beyond the authority, the local community may play a major role if they believe the project you are focused on could benefit them or benefit humanity in some way. That’s the wild card. If the authority suspects you of something, or a criminal group holds you, would the local community care enough about you and your project to help?


Part 3  |  Safety & Security: Defense

  • Organizations and individuals beyond the armed groups have a range of defensive options to increase safety and security before or hopefully without relying on weapons and force.
  • Constants include everything from compound walls and wires, alarm systems, window bars, double or triple entrance gates (so that if an intruder gets through one gate they are still slowed down by one or two other gates), and much more.
  • Variables include tough to manage issues such as how to control information. Who should have access to the team’s phone numbers, the exact address of who lives where, the timing of when certain people are moving from one place to another, and so on? Social information is hard enough to control, but in today’s digital world some associates find their trustworthy ally may have accidentally posted something on social media (such as the time and location of a private gathering with people who could be targeted), so safety officers and individuals all have to play a role in defending their private information.


Part 4  |  Safety & Security: Deterrence

  • Although armed groups obviously have a huge range of options to deter threats against their teams and guests, we focus here on civilian choices that avoid not only the use of force but also the visible demonstration of force capability as much as possible.
  • The primary way to coordinate deterrence without relying on armed groups directly, is simply to do so indirectly. Aid workers and war journalists may be accused of collusion with an armed group (such as the NATO intervention force or national army) if they are too close to them, but the same accusations may not apply if the aid worker or journalist instead relies on the same local police or gate security firm as local civilians use for the UN offices or regular crime. And so, civilians must do their best to keep good communications with such responders.
  • There are many more details to cover here! But this is the foundation before getting into greater details.


Part 5  |  Safety & Security Technical Skills & Gear

  • Communications gear and standard operating procedures (SOP) for comms are a strong place to start regardless of your reason for traveling in the hostile area. Everyone should not only have a phone, but ideally have a second phone and/or sim card, second battery and/or mobile re-charging source, and a huge list of important numbers both on each phone sim and on a physical, perhaps laminated card or paper one can take even if the phone is broken and another phone is found. Beyond this minimum, many people also carry satellite phones (sometimes just referred to as Thurayas) in case you get stranded outside cell phone areas or the cell phone signals are blocked. There are also short wave radios.  The SOPs present everyone with rules on how to communicate in such a way that if listened to the team doesn’t give away the origin, destination, or timing of travel.
  • Protective gear is incredibly helpful, but remember that the vast majority of people, especially locals, cannot afford it or refuse to wear it, so it can sometimes present a division between the protected traveler and their unprotected companion. Nevertheless, this gear can save lives. One must get a consultation to be sure which kind of vest and helmet. Each one has different features that tend to cost more the higher your level of protection. For example, some teams get pure vests, but paying a little more for a neck guard, or crotch guard, could make an enormous difference in a combat situation.
  • First aid kits are obviously essential, but don’t consider it just a box. One must have active training on how to use each item, beforehand.
  • Much more to cover here, but that’s the start.


Part 6  |  Mapping & Standard Operating Procedures

  • Humanitarian Bazaar founder Daniel J Gerstle drew together methods from the UN and many international aid agencies to create a module for mapping risk areas.
  • Like most aid and safety agencies in hostile environments, your team will need to map out not only where past security incidents have taken place and where unexploded weapons may still remain after fighting, but also have some method for predicting risk. That goes hand in hand with creating not only a Standard Operating Procedures manual for safety and security of the team, or even an individual, but also training of the team using the manual on how to react if the SOP doesn’t cover a new kind of situation.
  • HB will present the module which shows how to have the mapped risk areas rated from 0<5 based on increased risk and have each of those risk levels 0<5 correspond with the SOP rule. For example, 0 (normal) < 3 (generally unstable) may not require flack vests and helmets but 4 (volatile and risk of unexploded weapons) and 5 (active combat area) would.
  • All of these points are included in a simulation practice exercise shaped for the trainees. If it’s a webinar course, we will do a “How would you react?” verbal game. If it’s an in-person intensive training, we can bring you into our Crossing the Front Line simulation exercise HB’s founder created for workshops at Columbia University.

Meet Our Trainer ===>

Daniel J Gerstle  |  Founder & executive director of Humanitarian Bazaar, has served as a filmmaker, humanitarian aid worker, human rights researcher, and war journalist in Africa, West Asia, the Middle East, Caucasus, and the Balkans. More recently, he created Humanitarian Bazaar, formerly known as HELO Media, to produce projects focused on how people survive war and disaster. With Humanitarian Bazaar, he produced the Mogadishu Music Festival (Somalia 2013), Journey of Peace Kenya music festival in Dadaab refugee camp (Kenya 2013), and co-produced the first Afghan rock fest, Sound Central Festival (Afghanistan, 2011). Live from Mogadishu, his first feature length film as director, premieres in summer 2014. Find him at  |

Arrange Your Training ===>

  1. Check here if we already have a webinar or workshop scheduled which you can attend. ===> Training Schedule.
  2. Write us to reserve your space for an existing training or to ask for a training which could be scheduled with you. In the latter case, just let us know what windows of time would work best for you and we will see whether it is best to have others attend together or to have a training personalized for you and/or your organization. ===> 
  3. Right now we are accepting all payments for training as a donation to our War Survivors Advisory civilian protection project, and offering webinars as rewards for such donations, so you can either go right away to donate and let us know that you have done so, or schedule your training and then pay once you are satisfied with the training. The payment/donation button to support the War Survivors Advisory, along with a description of the project, can be found here. ===> Training Payment via War Survivors Advisory.