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Personnel Deployment into Hostile and Challenging Environments

Personnel are the beating heart of all field operations so it’s essential that obstacles don’t jeopardise deployment into Hostile and Challenging Environments.

Even though it’s been 20 years since we entered our first Hostile and Challenging Environment under the banner of Shape Services Ltd, we still give weight to the obstacles that come with the territory. From the very beginning we understood what would drive our programmes and ensure their success is met on the ground: the people executing them.

When working remotely it goes without saying that you need people who are knowledgeable, reliable and dependable, but if you add hostile and challenging environments into the mix these characteristics become critical. However, before even thinking about the specifics of the people you want in the field, a great deal of thorough planning must be done to give the greatest possibility of project success and avoid dramatic and unsafe outcomes for the staff. We really can’t emphasise enough how quickly personnel can become vulnerable due to simple oversights.

As a service provider proven to succeed in hostile, challenging and austere environments we believe these obstacles could jeopardise your personnel deployment, should you not plan to overcome them:

Location Specifics
It is imperative that you obtain detailed knowledge of the countries and locations you are sending your people in to. This all comes down to research and understanding risk. Visa entry and medical entry requirements, local medical facilities, transportation, hotels and secure accommodation, close protection, armoured or soft skin vehicles and security details dependent upon threat levels are just some of the items you should research and have satisfactory answers to, well in advance of deploying personnel. Many of these considerations will be country or even locally specific so regardless of what you think you already know, check again.

Company Infrastructure
Review of company infrastructure needs to be done and question asked like:

  • “What will happen if we have an incident or injury while in country?”
  • “What if medical intervention is required, what do we have in place?”

If you are operating in these environments there should be system processes and escalation points in place. The project staff both in country and out should be well versed in these and have a thorough understanding of what these systems and processes are and how to enact, use and follow them. Consider someone being the first point of contact in the project team at home 24/7 on rotation, should something dramatic occur. System stress testing should be actioned before deployment to fully understand capabilities and limitations.

Insurance cover is another part of company infrastructure that is required. For these environments this is very specialised and expensive however it is a must. Unless you are one of the very largest companies operating in hostile and challenging countries around the globe, you will likely not have the financial capacity or employ a viable and experienced crisis management team with all the various required link relationships needed should the very worst happen. Don’t try to save money (scrimp) on this as it should cover countries and areas of operation and situations ranging from kidnap and ransom, medical repatriation and medical and hospital cover and transportation to a suitable facility. These specialised insurance policies usually come with add on’s that give your team the ability to research a lot of information and intelligence, enabling them to research the areas of operation of risks and threat levels and sometimes access to crisis management teams, again to give them live updates and situational awareness information. Chubb offer a good scope of cover and are one of the companies that Shape Services Ltd have used https://www.chubb.com/uk-en/business/kidnap-ransom-extortion.aspx While this is specifically for kidnap and ransom cover they will cover most things. Here is their medical repatriation offer https://www.chubb.com.cn/_global-assets/documents/medical-repatriations.pdf

Emerging Threats
In today’s world there is now an additional challenge to consider. Covid19 has meant that many countries are in lockdown and so Airlines will neither fly in or out, with the exception of repatriation flights. Even if you can get a flight into these counties, it may well mean that personnel are having to quarantine for 14 days in country and those returning home, quarantined for yet another 14 days also. Naturally, this can have a dramatic physiological effect on “in country” personnel, as well as an increased exposure to environmental risk and not least project finances. Once again consideration needs to be given as to what is in place if one of the field teams contract Covid19. Robust process and procedures should be in place to support and possibly repatriate.

Further Considerations
A couple of things not covered here is the safe transportation of personnel to and from their place of work, security at the place of work and safe and reliable accommodation, its selection and how to prove and come to a conclusion with a positive outcome. This in itself is subject matter and perhaps we will cover that in a further article at a later date.

Working in Hostile and Challenging environments is all about understanding the risks involved and how to mitigate those risks down to their lowest level and while this is what project teams and businesses do every day, it takes a special type of project team with lots of experience, personnel intelligence and motivation to deliver programmes and projects in a safe and reliable manner. At Shape Services Ltd we have been doing this for two decades and believe we fit the description.

Our motto is ‘where others simply will not or cannot’ – so if you’d like a project delivered safely and reliably contact us today.

Author: Dean Russell Director of Shape Services Ltd

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