Aon Warns Companies in Middle East to Plan for More Unrest

February 9, 2011

Aon Risk Solutions, the global risk management arm of Aon Corp., is advising companies in the Middle east to “begin planning now for the effects of any potential spread of unrest in the region,” following the evacuation of a number of employees of international businesses from Egypt.

Aon explained that as the crisis unfolded its “Crisis Management team, which specializes in insurance brokerage and risk management for incidents such as terrorism, kidnap and political risk,” had been approached for help. “Companies who thought they had effective plans in place, but because so many other firms were looking to implement their plans at the same time, found there were simply no resources available to execute the plans effectively.”

Justin Priestley, executive director of Aon’s Crisis Management team commented: “While contagion to other countries in the region is far from a certainty, companies need to make sure they have robust ‘worst case’ scenario plans in place. We have seen relatively well prepared companies run in to trouble securing or evacuating their staff; and we have seen unprepared companies really suffer.

“Companies have a duty of care to their employees and it would not be a stretch to say that firms not looking to where the next hot-spots may be are failing in that.”

Aon suggested that the following measures should be adopted to prepare for future crises:
• Always have good, up to date information: this includes both the people on the ground and the people in head office. Open source information such as television news, newswires and social media are invaluable, as are specialist sources such as security analyst firms.
• Have a worst case plan: have a robust, tested evacuation plan in place, keeping in mind that other firms will be having the same idea.
• Actively manage exposure to risk: on an hour-by-hour basis, working with the people on the ground, establish just what kind of risks are acceptable to the firm. For example, is it acceptable for an employee to try to make it to the airport, or should they sit tight in their accommodation?
• Ensure that the employees sent to work in a foreign country are trained and experienced: safety comes down to lots of small decisions, and often these decisions are arrived at based on the of the individual experience or lack-thereof.
• The ultimate decision to evacuate rests with head office: The individual on the ground can lose sight of the overall picture, and become emotionally involved. Leave the ultimate decision to leave or stay with someone outside the situation.

Priestly added: “While the personal consequences of staying or not staying in a hot-spot can be enormous, if an employee is travelling or working on behalf of a foreign firm, the consequences of their actions will ultimately be the responsibility of the firm.

“During this crisis, for example, we have seen many foreign journalists want to stay in the thick of the action, but the risk to their safety has simply been too great for their news organizations to take.

“Dealing with the fall of a government or a terrorist attack is not exactly normal operating activity for the vast majority of firms. Many simply don’t know the options available to them in terms of international consultants, or think that an insurance policy is enough to cover them, forgetting about the human consequences on the ground.”

Aon offers a “comprehensive safe travel solution” service as part of ts effort to aid in implementing contingency plans.

Source: Aon

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