Segurança: Evacuações e planos de contingência para expatriados

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Evacuations and Contingency Planning

Stratfor – 06/09/2012 – por Scott Stewart

When the London 2012 Paralympic Games conclude the week of Sept. 9, the  British navy reportedly will send a task force to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea,  where it will participate in amphibious exercises off the coasts of Albania,  Sardinia and Turkey before lingering off the coast of Cyprus.

Ostensibly, the upcoming exercises are meant to prepare the navy for  evacuating Syria of British citizens. Indeed, the ongoing civil war in Syria has  prompted several Western countries to consider evacuation plans for their  citizens who remain in the war-torn country. Some countries already have issued  travel warnings against Syria, while others have advised their citizens to  vacate the country. The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France and  Germany have closed their embassies in Syria and are less able to assist their  citizens there.

Foreign nationals should take full advantage of their governments’ evacuation  assistance regardless of the country in which they temporarily reside; British  citizens in Syria are no exception. However, government planning is no  substitute for personal evacuation plans, which are vital for any citizen in a  foreign country.

Evacuation Planning

Evacuation plans are essential for all expatriates who live in developing  countries, including diplomats, businessmen, aid workers and seasonal residents.  Natural disasters, mob violence from civil disturbances, terrorism and war can  all precipitate evacuations. Natural disasters, such as the 2010 earthquake in  Haiti or the 2004 tsunami in Asia, erupt suddenly, while other events, such as  the civil unrest in Syria, develop slowly. The latter instances give foreign  citizens ample opportunity to leave; in Syria, foreign governments encouraged  their citizens to vacate months ago. But even in such situations, events that  require evacuation can occur abruptly, which leaves expatriates little time to  plan their exits.

The potential for evacuation is not confined to developing countries. Many  foreigners fled Japan following the March 2011 earthquake that damaged a nuclear  power plant in Fukushima, and the 2010 wildfires in Moscow prompted a sudden and  massive evacuation. No one expected the fires to worsen so quickly.

Since the potential for evacuation is nearly universal, expatriates are best  served preparing an evacuation plan before a crisis erupts. Foreign embassies  often will assist evacuation efforts — expatriates are encouraged to register  with their respective embassies and foreign ministries — but foreign citizens  should not rely on their governments to do their planning for them.

The reason for this is twofold. First, it may take some time for a government  to execute its evacuation plans. In other instances, governments might not have  an embassy to coordinate such efforts. Expatriates should take advantage of any  evacuation procedures offered by their government, but they should not rely  solely on those plans.

Nor should they rely on the plans of allied governments. Countries like the  United States, the United Kingdom and France often will work with their allies  in evacuation scenarios. However, every country will focus its efforts on the  safety of its respective citizenry. So even in friendly countries, foreign  citizens need to be responsible for their own security.

Evacuation situations involve more than merely showing up at the airport or  seaport and departing. Usually, evacuations entail a great deal of bureaucracy  and delay. It is not uncommon for expatriates to stay at an airport or seaport  for a day or longer as they wait for their governments to arrange safe departure  with the host government, rebel forces or both. Moreover, evacuation procedures  will depend on the crisis. In most cases, commercial airliners, sea crafts or  land transport will facilitate evacuations. Despite what is portrayed in the  movies, military forces and helicopters are used only in very rare  situations.

In any case, expatriates will be expected to pay for their own transportation  out of the country. If they do not have the cash up front, they will be required  to sign a promissory note to reimburse their government. They also are allowed  to carry on only one small bag and are not allowed to bring pets. Therefore,  many prefer to arrange their own transportation out of the country.

Personal evacuation plans usually require departure before the situation  becomes too critical to leave. Thus, an important element of any evacuation plan  is to establish criteria that, if met, will put the plan into action. While it  is often prudent to leave a place before the situation deteriorates and your  government orders an evacuation, some people wait until the very last minute to  leave or decide to shelter in place and ride the crisis out.

Another important element of an evacuation  plan is preparing a fly-away kit. This is a small bag or backpack that  contains the basic things a person or family will require during an evacuation.  Obviously, the most important things you need are your identification papers,  money and credit cards (which should be kept in sealable plastic bags to keep  them dry) and a cell phone or other means of communication. But a fly-away kit  should also contain important items, such as a change of clothes, toiletry  items, a jacket or something warm to wear, prescriptions or other required  medications, a first aid kit, a smoke hood, a flashlight, drinking water,  non-perishable food, duct tape, a multi-tool knife and perhaps even something to  read — again, evacuation usually entails a great deal of waiting. The idea of  the fly-away kit is to have most of the items assembled in the bag so that one  can quickly gather any remaining items, such as medicines, documents and money,  before departure.

Maintaining important papers like passports, birth certificates, marriage  certificates, immunization records and credit card information in one secure  file allows foreign citizens to grab the file quickly prior to departure.  Expatriates must make sure that their travel documents are not expired and that  they have the appropriate visas if their plan requires traveling to an adjacent  country. Keeping copies of important documents in a separate, secure place is  also a good idea lest the originals be lost or stolen.

An expatriate’s means of departure and evacuation routes should be  prearranged, but they should not be inflexible. Evacuation plans should include  several routes and alternative modes of transportation. In some cases,  transportation hubs — the international airport, for example — may be closed,  or an earthquake may have destroyed the bridge on an escape route. Such  scenarios require an alternative plan.

If an entire company or a family is vacating a country, every member of the  group needs to understand the plan and know what to do in such a situation. If  you are working for a multinational corporation you need to clearly understand  your company’s policies and what they will and will not do to assist you. Many  companies purchase commercial medical and emergency evacuation insurance  policies for their employees.

Communications are frequently unavailable during a crisis, but knowing that  all the members of your family or staff know your evacuation plan — and are  abiding by it — will help reduce the stress of not being able to communicate  with them. It also allows each individual to focus on his or her immediate  tasks. If you wait to implement the plan until you have communicated with every  member of your family or staff, it could be too late to make it out. An  evacuation plan must also account for ways to communicate with your family  overseas and to your government. Alternative means of communication, such as  satellite phones, might be helpful.

While almost any contingency plan is better than no plan, a plan that has  been tested in the real world, especially during rush hour or another time of  heavy congestion or disruption, is better than a plan that only exists on paper.  Practicing a plan will help you to identify problems and weaknesses that do not  appear in a theoretical plan. Practice also helps ensure that all of those  participating in the plan know exactly what they are required to do and where  they should go.

Plans must be periodically checked and updated and the contents of fly-away  kits inspected. Highway construction projects can render evacuation routes  impassable, and flashlights with dead batteries are useless. It is also  prudent to designate someone who will remain in the country and can safeguard  your home and belongings and care for your pets after you leave.

Creating an  evacuation plan is important because when many people are confronted by a  dire emergency, they simply do not know what to do. When people are overwhelmed  by an emergency, it is often difficult for them to think clearly and establish a  logical plan. Having a plan in advance — even an imperfect plan — provides  even a person in shock a framework to rely on and a path to follow.

The Syrian Example

Syria can help illustrate some aspects of evacuation planning. While many  Western governments have closed their embassies and advised their citizens to  leave the country, there are still many expatriates who remain in Syria. Others  have even traveled to Syria, for personal or commercial reasons, since the  outbreak of civil unrest.

Some airlines, such as Air France, have suspended flights to Damascus, but  others, including EgyptAir, Emirates Airlines and Royal Jordanian Airlines,  continue flights. This could change. Late in the week of Aug. 26, Syrian rebels  accused Russian arms smugglers of bringing weapons into Syria aboard civilian  aircraft and threatened to attack such flights. While Stratfor has no  information to confirm these rebel claims, Russian arms traffickers do indeed  have a documented history of using civilian cargo and passenger planes to move  weapons into conflict zones, and it is therefore possible that they are doing so  in Syria. If the Syrian rebels begin to shoot at aircraft they suspect of  smuggling weapons, airlines may become less willing to fly to Damascus.

The rebels have also intensified their attacks against the airport in Aleppo,  which was being used to fly close air support missions and to bring supplies  into the city. As a result, passenger flights to the airport have been  suspended.

If foreign citizens cannot leave by air, the most secure land route from  Damascus is Road 1, which leads directly to Beirut. An alternative route would  take citizens south to Jordan via the M5 highway. However, this route traverses  dangerous areas that are rife with fighting.

Expatriates in the eastern half of Syria would likely head to the Kurdish  areas in the northeast through Road 7 and the M4 motorway, exiting through  Turkey. There is a lot of fighting near the Iraqi border, and the road  infrastructure in the southeast is not very good.

In the northern rebel-held areas, the best evacuation method is to simply  take the most secure road straight to the Turkish border, avoiding regime  shelling and airstrikes as much as possible. For foreigners on the coast,  the best option is to leave by boat. An alternative route is to take the M1  motorway north to Turkey’s Hatay province or south to northern Lebanon. Both of  these borders are used heavily for smuggling supplies to the rebels, so one has  to be careful of clashes.

One of the worst places to be stuck is in the centrally located Orontes  Valley. Roads leading southwest to Lebanon and north to Turkey are largely  blocked by the frontlines of the battle. Ideally, one would proceed west to the  coast along such routes as Road 50 and hope not to be targeted while passing  checkpoints or during ambushes.

Currently, the Syrian government and the rebels appear to be locked in a war  of attrition and there are no signs of an imminent regime collapse. However, if  the regime collapses suddenly, we can expect to see a flurry of activity as  foreigners flee the conflict zones and governments work to evacuate the  country.



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