Working on location: Be prepared

Working on location: Be prepared

By Sara T'Rula 21/03/13

After a road accident in Egypt, photographer Sara T’Rula realised it was time to brush up on her survival skills. She recommends training and resources for working on location...

“Be prepared” is the Scout Motto, but I’d never been a Scout. I didn't even last three weeks in Brownies before they kicked me out for insubordination. I’d always planned to do some emergency situation training, but it had never seemed urgent until I was the passenger in a people-carrier swerving out of control on a dirt road in Egypt’s Sinai Desert, bouncing me around inside as it rolled down a cliff onto the beach. 

I was lucky to be alive, luckier still to be without injury, but I realised that even though I’d done  first aid training, I wasn’t prepared for this. I could have done better; I could have been doing better in every on-location job before this. That’s probably just how you feel in a situation like that, no matter how prepared you are. But there are some basics I'd advise you to consider.


Sara T'Rula's road accident in the Sinai Desert, Egypt. Image: © Sara T'Rula

Sara T'Rula's vehicle following a crash in the Sinai Desert, Egypt. Image: © Sara T'Rula


Professional indemnity and public liability insurance 

Some locations, such as  hotels or schools, will require you to produce professional indemnity and public liability insurance documents before even letting you begin work. While insurance won’t prevent accidents, it will at least ensure that if your business accidentally causes injury to a member of the public, the costs can be covered financially. Insurance can be as little as £5 per month, depending on the type of coverage you need.


Medical provision

For emergencies within the UK we have access to the NHS. But creatives should also register for an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), to cover you in case of medical emergencies while in Europe. The card is free, valid for up to five years and worth getting even if you don’t have European travel planned – if a last-minute trip comes up, you may not have time to register for one before you leave. If you’re planning to work outside Europe, appropriate medical insurance is essential – don’t skip it just to save a few quid, as you never know when you’ll need it.



If you’re working abroad and worried about phone bills, consider buying a cheap pay-as-you-go phone – you can get one for less than £10 – then pick up a SIM card when you arrive. And the first phone numbers to put in it? The emergency services for the country you’re in. A one-minute job, but crucial should you find yourself in trouble. If you’re regularly working in remote or wet conditions, take a look at the JCB range of mobile phones, designed to be water-proof, withstand a pressure or large falls, and can include a wind-up charger for the battery if you’re in the middle of nowhere. 

Make sure people know where you’re going, and when you’ll be there. If possible, arrange to contact someone after you’ve finished work if you’re in a particularly dangerous area.


First aid training 

It might seem expensive to undertake first aid training with a recognised provider, but you can include this when marketing your services to potential clients. And in some cases, your local council might be able to help you fund the course. St John’s Ambulance Service and The Red Cross both offer a range of courses nationwide on a regular basis – from a couple of hours’ training up to three days. You should refresh your first aid training once a year. Mountaineering and outdoor sports stores sell first aid kits that are small and easy to add to your working equipment.


Specialist training 

If you regularly work near water, The Royal Life Saving Society offers qualifications in emergency response open water, and emergency response swimming pools. The week-long Hostile Environments and Emergency First Aid Training (HEFAT)  is required training for all BBC journalists working in dangerous situations, and includes basic first aid training to help you respond to choking, traffic accidents and other events. The qualification you receive is valid for three years, after which a shorter refresher course is required to stay up-to-date.



Do you have any other tips for staying safe on location? Let us know, below!

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Image by Ferran on a Creative Commons license.

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