Let us define the word “evacuate” first. According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, New 8th Edition (2010), it is to move out people from a place of danger to a safer place. Country evacuation refers to an evacuation of either all personnel (staff and dependents) or the dependents only from a foreign country, where an organization conducts a business, to a safe haven.
Evacuation can be either to a neighboring country or back to the homeland. Evacuation cannot be avoided when security of staff and dependents are in danger.
The day-to-day security situation in a country is described by the term, called “alert phase”. It indicates different scenario with regards to security situation at any one time in the country. Internationally, colors are used to differentiate the different types of alert phase in place.
Different organizations may use different colors to denote the security situation in a country. Typical colors used are green; yellow; orange; and red. Their characteristics are described below:
Green: situation in the country is normal and “business as usual”,
Yellow: expecting an emergency or crisis,
Orange: emergency or crisis is likely to happen, prepare to evacuate,
Red: in an emergency or crisis condition, evacuate all personnel.
The country head, such as the highest ranking officer in the organization is responsible in maintaining close liaison with the homeland’s Embassy or High Commission on a regular basis so as to ascertain the type of current alert phase.
It is important for us to know, for purpose of general knowledge, what are the usual activities being conducted in each of the alert phase.
GREEN ALERT PHASE
All staff and dependents should register with homeland’s Embassy or High Commission; identify the safe haven and practical routes (by land, sea, river or air); conduct evacuation awareness program; appoint evacuation management team; keep and review stocks of food for at least seven days; establish contacts with reputable air charter companies; prepare and update list of relevant emergency contact numbers; and prepare an evacuation plan. More activities can be added if required.
YELLOW ALERT PHASE
All movements of staff and dependents should be restricted; inform headquarters on situation and impose travel ban; prepare what we call “go-ahead” baggage; ensure availability of transport to safe haven; inform homeland’s Embassy or High Commission; finalize evacuation plan and prepare to implement it if situation is unsafe for staff and dependents.
ORANGE ALERT PHASE
Evacuate non-essential staff and dependents; collect important and classified documents; conduct business at minimum level; highly restrict staff movement; head of evacuation team to decide on operational matters; and communicate with headquarters.
If security situation deteriorates, the country head can decide whether to embark on an evacuation exercise. Evacuation of non-essential staff and dependents can be undertaken via commercial or chartered aircraft.
RED ALERT PHASE
Destroy all documents that cannot be hand carried; delegate authorities to local staff, if feasible; maintain communication with headquarters for latest development; and evacuate the remaining staff by land, sea, river or air.
During evacuation, give priority to children followed by women and elderly staff.
In the event of sudden evacuation, mode of transportation may be carried out via military aircraft, including helicopters. Minimum supplies for evacuation should include the following items: traveling documents and cash; bottled mineral water; canned food and can opener; toilet and feminine hygiene articles; insect repellent; matches; torchlight and extra batteries; first-aid kit; maps; blankets; small transistor radio and batteries.
Evacuation by land, sea, river and air should be tested by security personnel during the green alert phase. This is to gauge the estimated time taken to move out from the troubled area to the safe haven.
SIGNAL SIGNS FOR EVACUATION
Normally, there are some escalating events that can give ample signals for the country head to order for an evacuation. These events may include, but not limited to the following scenarios:
Evacuation of foreign Embassies’ or High Commissions’ personnel from the host country; closure of foreign Embassies or High Commissions or international schools; sudden cancellation of international flights; increase bomb threats; natural disasters; outbreak of war in the country or neighboring countries; and political strife.
Besides security reasons, evacuation can also take place under the following scenarios: body evacuation (bodevac) and/or medical evacuation (Medivac).