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Published: July 26, 2011

The recent revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests in North Africa and the Middle-East has created a complicated financial and logistical dilemma for businesses operating in the region. With many being forced to shut their doors and leave in the interest of safety, often resulting in serious financial losses, organisations that have functioning offices abroad are asking what can be done to avoid such complications in the future, with large numbers turning to bespoke solution security companies for the answers.

By thinking ahead and bringing in risk management and security expert Pilgrims Group to develop contingency and relocation plans at an early stage, one major multinational technology company was able to continue near uninterrupted operations in regions that were experiencing high levels of violence and volatility and avoid financial losses.

Initially the organisation contacted Pilgrims in February to develop contingency relocation plans for their Jordan based office, as they were concerned by developments in the region at that time. “Within 24 hours Pilgrims was able to get one of our head consultancy figures, who was working in Lebanon at the time, on the ground in Jordan to begin putting a plan in place,” explained Pilgrims Operations Manager for Consultancy, Gabriel Carter.

Following the processes established in Jordan, the client asked Pilgrims to develop further contingency relocation projects for a number of its other business locations that had been identified as ‘priority one’ Middle Eastern and North African countries, including Bahrain, Oman, Morocco and Algeria.

The extended contract required Pilgrims to visit each country, assess the overall security situation and design actionable ‘contingency relocation plans’ tailor-made for that country, including the identification of sub-contractors and security companies based in the region for use by the client for low-level aspects of the tasks.

Pilgrims provided a number of meticulously planned options, putting in place plans and back-up plans should the need to evacuate arise. “In any evacuation plan it is important to establish multiple routes of exit,” says Carter. “You don’t just say, ‘go to the airport’. You say, ‘if you go to the airport, this is your Alpha route, this is your Bravo route, if there is a problem with the Alpha route then you fall back to the Bravo.’ Likewise, organisations cannot afford to depend wholly on one means of evacuation: if the airport is unavailable, Alpha and Bravo routes should already be in place for evacuation by sea and by land.”

Whilst the primary service was predominantly at a consultancy level, this was integrally supported by the Pilgrims Information and Intelligence department, which provided daily background briefs to its consultants informing them of the developing security situation in each country.

“The background support of the I&I department illustrates the depth of the knowledge that exists within Pilgrims and the intelligence it has at its disposal,” explains Carter. “This enables the company to operate effectively in all regions and climates of the world, allowing bespoke solutions to be possible. Importantly, those designing them have extensive experience of similar situations that have required comparable urgency and cogent organisation.”

“During the Arab Spring, the contingency relocation plans designed by Pilgrims provided the client in question with the necessary reassurance (at management and ground levels) for them to continue operations in regions that were experiencing high levels of violence and volatility – secure in the knowledge that they would be able to evacuate in good order should this become necessary.”

Carter believes the success of Pilgrims’ operational approach can be attributed to the diverse backgrounds of its security personnel, covering areas of expertise from multinational corporate Crisis Management all the way through to UK and New Zealand Special Forces. “This breadth gives the group a deep and useful understanding of the unique hurdles facing a major corporate – but also an operational expertise that is second to none,” he explains.

“As a result, Pilgrims is able to design a solution that is not just a one-size-fits-all, but a solution that entails engaging with clients at a consultancy level to identify their individual requirements in order to design a solution that meets those requirements very specifically,” says Carter.

Pilgrims is a medium-sized company with a global network and a strong crisis-management background. The company has worked in similar evacuation crises in the Lebanon war, as well as the disasters in New Orleans and Haiti, and across the Middle East during the Arab Spring.
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