Disaster in Haiti: Advice for Employees and Operations on the Ground

Haiti isn't a big business hub, but many companies still have suffered some impact. Eddie Everett of Control Risks provides advice on dealing with the disaster.

Global security firms are providing round-the-clock assistance and advice to clients in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Eddie Everett, senior vice president and national director for Global Services North America with security firm Control Risks, is in charge of coordinating the firm's global crisis efforts. He spoke with CSO about what advice Control Risks is giving client companies affected by the disaster (See also: Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: The Basics).

CSO: Has the impact of the earthquake been large among your clientele?

Eddie Everett, Control Risks: It's interesting because for a country that has really no natural resources—for instance there aren't a lot of oil, gas mining extraction industries there. Primarily it is manufacturing industries there. There are enormous amounts of companies with a small footprint there. It's not a big market for most of our clients. But there are a multitude of clients with operations there.

It's very NGO heavy. It's a country that is almost exclusively supported by international aid. So that side of client activity is very busy. But also there are a lot of clients in manufacturing, distribution, telecommunications and some financial organizations that have limited footprint on the ground but have a presence there.

What advice are you giving to clients now about evacuation?

Haiti remains for us in phase two of our evacuation monitoring system. Effectively evacuation is not necessary at this time but companies should ensure their businesses continuity and crisis management plans are realistic and ready to be implemented at short notice.

The best course of action at this time for those who are in country is to remain unless they have exit routes in place, because of the lack of logistics to get them out of country.

What is generally the first line of response for an organization like Control Risks when a major disaster strikes in some region of the world?

The thing you have to force yourself to do is first stop, take stock, and clarify information about exactly what the situation is before you act too quickly. If you get it right at the outset, you can save yourself many further problems down the line.

The first thing we do is gather and collate information as it comes in from the ground. At our global security center we have our analysts and our 24-hour operations center. Information comes in from clients, media sources, from retain and intelligence sources, from various online information. So the first thing we do is gather information and assess what is the situation right now: Who is in the country? How they might be impacted? And then we assess what we need to do in the immediate instance.

We are doing this in a two-pronged approach in conjunction with our partner International SOS. The first part is a joint-effort of deployed emergency medical personnel. Those personnel find people, if we know where they are, treat them, and assist with transporting them to safe harbor.

And then, from a security perspective, we also support clients that have need to get into the country: For instance non-governmental organizations, governmental organizations, aid agencies, or media crews that need access into the country but also need support while they are on the ground. We provide support on the ground to those who need to enter into the country or need someone to represent them to identify personnel assets and give them an ongoing assessment of what is going on.

What does that support look like? What kinds of things specifically do clients need right now?

On the medical side, we already have predetermined networks of medical providers that are pre- vetted and that are in place to support normal evacuation processes for our clients. Obviously post an incident as severe as this, an earthquake, everything needs to be reassessed. You need to take all of your supplies and support in with you because you can't rely on any infrastructure to be in place to support you on the ground in Haiti.

So we take in security personnel to secure effectively a foothold on the ground for us and then very quickly behind them, within 12 hours, the medical personnel come in and are able to support our clients. These are our clients that contract medical services through SOS and information through Control Risks/ SOS. We are being tasked by our clients who are looking for accurate information. Is our building still intact? Can you identify where our personnel are?

We are looking at doing things like securing assets for people: buildings, locations if people have them on the ground. We are providing protection such as executive protection, closed protection. Haiti at the best of times is a high-risk location. We've already seen increased violence picking up on the ground. We expect that to increase dramatically as the resources on the ground continue to wane.

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