Middle East 2011

The value of having a qualified Security Consultant

As the effects of the Arab Spring began to be felt in the kingdom, several US Corporations had significant sized offices in the Middle East. Media footage of violent protests on the streets understandably made the boards of the various companies extremely nervous leading to several organizations evacuating their staff and dependents to unaffected neighboring states.

Other companies assessed the situation differently. One such company had the services of an Arabic-speaking security consultant. This individual had developed relationships with the US and British Embassies, Ministry of Interior, the US Naval Base, Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) and other security advisors in the kingdom. He was also able to talk with local security forces personnel and even with protesters manning barricades.

As the situation developed, it was clear that the opposition had no intention of harming expatriate or local staff and dependents. Therefore, while the unrest would have to be closely monitored, the only risk was becoming accidentally involved in an incident. Advice was issued to staff and dependents as to the areas on the island to be avoided and almost immediately both the US and British Embassy were publishing daily bulletins covering enhanced risk routes and areas.

Working closely with his Country Manager, the security consultant engaged with senior management back in the US who remained concerned for the safety of staff and dependents. Department of State and British Foreign Office advisories being issued through the two embassies were very cautious and leaning towards evacuation, though many diplomats privately agreed that this was not necessary. As one individual observed at an Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) meeting, security managers and consultants should be prepared to accurately assess the situation for themselves, having examined all advice available. An experienced security consultant understands the wording of security advisories which may be over cautious, owing to pressure placed on governments and diplomatic missions.

Agreement was finally reached with the board that staff and dependents should be allowed to remain on the island, which demonstrated a level of commitment to the local government, saved on travel and accommodation costs, avoided work disruption and allowed dependents uninterrupted education. The companies that had made the decision to leave were faced with the problem as to how to justify their return when the situation had not significantly changed since their departure.

In this instance, while the decision to remain could be fully justified, the security consultant together with the Country Manager and his Crisis Management Team kept the Evacuation Plan in constant readiness and ensured a continuous flow of appropriate information was distributed to staff and dependents. The safety of employees and their families was uppermost in everyone’s minds throughout, but the decision reached is an example of the cost effectiveness of procuring the services of professional security advisors or consultants.