More news & features

Published: January 27, 2010

When Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake this January, worldwide security and risk management specialists Pilgrims immediately began providing security and logistical support services to businesses and Haitians in need.

Pilgrims promptly reacted to clients' needs, providing emergency, humanitarian and evacuation services to the employees and families of clients stranded or in danger. Pilgrims also provided security, logistical and medical support services to companies entering Haiti within the news media, NGO and pharmaceutical sectors.

In the immediate aftermath, the situation was desperate as most of the normal security and law enforcement duties carried out by the police and UN in Haiti were stretched to breaking point as a result of the earthquake. Pilgrims organised fixed wing and helicopter flights from Santa Domingo (Dominican Republic) and Miami as part of its efforts to assist clients in accessing and evacuating Haiti.

All the assistance that Pilgrims has provided to their clients within Haiti has been at specially reduced prices against existing framework agreements, emphasising that profiteering from humanitarian disasters is not part of the company’s business practice.

Haiti’s remote location and reputation for being the poorest country in the western hemisphere have compounded to create an ever changing situation on the ground but Pilgrims is well versed in dealing with disasters such as this, with an impressive track record in previous disasters and war zones, such as Hurricane Katrina, Georgia, Lebanon, Indonesia and Haiti itself four years ago.

In addition to primary functions of ensuring client security, safe transit and keeping an overview of the situation, Pilgrims’ teams have also been providing humanitarian assistance to local Haitians, using their specialist skill sets to great effect. “Providing commercial security risk management services does not preclude an organisation or its people from doing what is right,” said Pilgrims’ Managing Director, Bill Freear.

Pilgrims has so far distributed large quantities of emergency rations, water purification aids and medication to Haitians in an attempt to help where possible with the dire situation. There is however still a lack of accessible medical assistance in Haiti, a situation which has been significantly aggravated by the earthquake’s crippling effect on Haiti’s infrastructure.

Pilgrims’ highly trained and experienced trauma medics are finding themselves called upon time and time again to assist seriously injured earthquake victims who would otherwise struggle to find help.

The operational experience of Pilgrims’ staff is second to none, with personnel including former UK Special Forces and Intelligence Corps. It is this experience that enabled Pilgrims to assemble a specialist team to place on standby with assets, including aircraft ready to deploy within 24 hours of the earthquake rocking the island.

“When the Americans closed the airspace, closing the window of opportunity for our charters to get through, we had arrangements in place to send teams in with the clients over land through the Dominican Republic into Haiti,” explains David Freear, Director of Operations for Pilgrims. ”Contingency planning is vital in a crisis such as this and the closing of the airspace underlined how quickly things can change and an alternative plan is needed.”