Photo Credits: Reuters

12/03/2021

Mark Lowe

While the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is suggesting that Italian citizens consider leaving Myanmar, other governments have escalated their risk assessment levels and are advising their citizens to leave the country immediately.

British nationals have been advised to leave Myanmar unless they have an urgent requirement to remain.

The ministry’s advice highlights a number of concerns that companies have to take into consideration before sending employees into countries where there is a potential risk of having to evacuate them.

In Myanmar’s case, the advice stems from the consequences of the recent military coup, but emergency evacuations can also be determined by health emergencies, natural disasters, civil unrest, or open conflict.

The evacuation advisory highlights the importance of continuous situational awareness, of having a robust evacuation plan in place, and compliance with government guidelines and advice.

Situational awareness is fundamental to ensuring the safety and security of both staff members travelling internationally and those that are assigned to activities in a foreign country. It is essential that potential critical issues are identified in advance and that the monitoring process continues during their assignments.

Critical issues must be identified in order to define mitigation procedures and, in the case of an event, being in the condition to correctly manage the situation.

In those cases where there is a heightened threat of staff being exposed to security or health risks, an evacuation plan must be defined in advance of travel. The plan should be multilevel and thus take into consideration, in the case of staff assigned to long-term permanence in an at risk country, a gradual escalation process. For example family members should be evacuated first, those remaining should consider sharing accommodation, communications protocols should be reinforced, and the practical evacuation considerations implemented.

For example, as is the case in Myanmar, international flights may be suspended and thus overland travel, despite the great number of necessary considerations, may be an option if land borders are open.

However, if the international airport is open there may be the possibility of ‘relief’ flights being available for those seeking to leave the country. In many cases these flights are commercially bookable.

Staff training is essential and must be conducted well in advance of travel. The training in question will not be exclusively for those who will actually travel but will also include those employees who will provide support roles.

Various departments will be involved, including the legal department which will also play a key role in complying with government guidelines. This is an essential task as both legal and insurance considerations have to be examined and understood.

In terms of advance preparation and staff training, a number of considerations will have to be addressed including some very practical advice as to dealing with an evacuation. These considerations will include, but not be limited to, issues such as banks and ATMs being closed or unavailable and thus having sufficient funds and US Dollars for use at airports or for day to day necessities, the lack of internet connections and disruptions to local phone networks, curfews and general behavior during the emergency.

Political tension and unrest in Myanmar has spread since the military takeover, levels of violence are rising throughout the country and thus in a similar scenario those unable to leave the country should stay at home and stay safe. Guidance should be given in advance as to managing situations where the individual needs to leave home for essential reasons.

The situation in Myanmar illustrates what can happen in the space of a very short period of time and thus the importance of staff training, situational awareness,  preparation, crisis management, and having a robust travel risk management procedure in place.

Pyramid Temi Group can help you address all of these issues, contact us to discuss your requirements and how we can work with you to ensure that your travellers stay safe!