Wednesday 11 January 11:11am:

Ring Ring! Ring Ring! “Hello Australasian Assistance client security help line can I help you?”
“Hello this is ‘Client Company’ Security Manager in Damascus and our company has agreed to invoke the agreed evacuation plans as per your recommendation as the situation has got bad and we believe will only get worse and we need to move and move now”.

A call has been received from a client based in Damascus, Syria. Preparation for such a call as this has already been put in place in the form of tested client specific crisis and evacuation plans. The logistics to move 40+ members of staff out of what is becoming a hostile environment may seem like a daunting task. However due to prior planning and a network of consultants available to AAI Australia the preparation for a task such as this is already in place and systems are ready to go.

Calls go out to our security specialists in Damascus, pre-screened transportation companies and to the travel management company to start pre booking seats on commercial flights. Dedicated AA staff set up the crisis control centre and communications are established with client company HQ and the client base in Damascus.

Pre-determined evacuation plans have already been put in place and they can involve air, land or sea transportation or at times a combination of all three. The established safe haven for this client to evacuate to is shortlisted as Lebanon (subsidiary company location) and at present the best form of transportation this this destination is in small groups of 5 – 6 people by vehicle to the Damascus International airport (DAM) and then commercial airline direct to Lebanon (Beirut Rhia). All routes have been examined in detail prior to plans being approved and locations of hospitals, gas stations, hotels, etc are included in route reconnaissance.

Agreed dates and times are coordinated by the crisis control centre along with the protection teams, transportation company, client and also our Lebanese liaison staff waiting to meet the client upon arrival in Lebanon. Evacuation to the airport will be conducted in 6 vehicles with 6-7 people per vehicle, one driver and an armed protection officer. Evacuation will start at 07:30 Friday 13 January from client HQ car park, Damascus.

All client staff and family members’ names are cross checked including nationalities and their individual visa requirements to ensure no problems are encountered at immigration, and again double checked by the armed escort prior to departure from company HQ.

Luggage is limited to Passport, suitable amount of cash, small luggage 20kg max, charged cell phone with programmed emergency numbers, charger, food to cover up to 48hrs inc water, basic medical kit and any personal medication to last up to 7 days.

Friday 13 January 06:00:

Vehicles and armed escorts arrive at the client HQ. All groups for evacuation have been advised to arrive at least 2 hours prior to arranged departure time.

Staff and families arrive. All are assembled and briefed in the company HQ meeting rooms and travel documentation checked and luggage is loaded ready for departure.

Briefings include what to do in the event of emergency, routes that will be taken, hospitals, emergency contacts and numbers etc.

Vehicles depart in two groups. Each vehicle will act as a support vehicle for the others in case of break down or hostile attack.

At all times the Australasian Assistance crisis control room is kept up to date by the client HQ and armed escort team leader. All escorts carry weapons, satellite telephones, GPS tracking device and paramedic emergency equipment.
This time the move to the airport and the evacuation of all staff out of Syria passed without incident. This was due to a constant risk analysis being made of political conditions in all countries by the AA analytical team and it was determined that the situation in Syria would continue to deteriorate and that all non-essential staff, expats and business travelers should leave the country to a designated safe haven. The decision to evacuate was not made lightly and was based upon many factors and many sources of information and it was timed so that the evacuation could be initiated with minimal risk i.e. when borders, airports, roads etc are still open. This client had the foresight to realise its number one asset is its staff and needed to offer a duty of care to its staff both at home and also overseas. When dealing with crises such as this forward planning is essential, not all crises can be planned for, but tried and tested plans along with emergency preparedness can illuminate, prevent and control losses and in turn reduce levels of disruptive acts.

The Australasian Assistance group operates from offices located in Sydney, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Manila, Jakarta, Singapore Hong Kong, Seoul and Taipei.

Our 24 hours operations provide round the clock assistance and our centres are managed by teams of dedicated staff with multi language capabilities, our teams of professionals are trained to handle security, medical, logistical and technical aspects of crises, minor and major emergencies with efficiency and compassion.

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