Escaping the path of Dorian
Michael Rogers, a Security Manager based in Philadelphia returned from the Bahamas. He was part of a team that facilitated an evacuation of a large number of employees from the path of Hurricane Dorian, a category five storm (highest on a five-tiered scale); the second strongest storm by wind speed ever recorded in the Atlantic.
I was part of the incident management team deployed by International SOS to the Bahamas in advance of Hurricane Dorian’s landfall. We were sent to the islands to assist a client evacuation of over 120 employees from an exposed cay that had limited infrastructure in the northwest. The cay was situated in the path of Hurricane Dorian.
When time is short
The team received a brief on the mission objectives on the morning of 28 August and were deployed just hours later. That night we arrived in Nassau and began making logistical arrangements to facilitate the evacuation. The plan came together quickly. The employees were ferried from the cay to the nearby island of South Bimini so that we may utilise the island's airfield for onward evacuation. An aircraft simultaneously met two members of the incident management team in Nassau and flew them over to meet the employees in South Bimini. There, the incident management team members coordinated transportation from the docks to the Bimini airport and ensured all staff were accounted for and boarded the aircraft, to take them to Nassau to ride out the storm.
Upon arrival at the airport in Nassau, staff met two more members of the incident management team who would brief them and assist with onward transportation to the hotel. Finally at the hotel, they met the last member of the incident management team who would assist with hotel check-in and provide a thorough briefing on what to expect in the coming days. 120 members were moved by sea, air and land from harm’s way to safety.
Riding out the storm
We spent the next few days riding out the storm with the client in the hotel. Downtown Nassau experienced flooding due to the heavy rains, while strong winds scattered debris across the streets. Intermittent power outages were recorded. Still, the trajectory of the storm had shifted northward and Nassau was largely spared the devastating winds and storm surge that battered the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama. The team closely monitored the storm’s development, liaising with headquarters in Philadelphia and receiving updates from an environmental risk analyst. We provided scheduled briefings to the client regarding Dorian’s impact outlook and coordinated accountability musters twice a day.
Once the storm passed, we had to move quickly to return the employees back to the cay so they could assess the damage and return to work on their project. We arranged a meeting with the National Emergency Management Agency and visited with two security providers to gauge capabilities. We also conducted route analysis to ensure road travel would be feasible and liaised with authorities at the Bimini Airport, which had registered some damage in the storm. We were able to facilitate the return to site on 6 September.
We were so moved by the plight of survivors. These people, many of whom had lost homes or loved ones, had endured several days of limited infrastructure, withering elements, and lack of access to clean water before air carriers could resume service to the island. After successfully getting all our client’s employees back to the cay, our team made a trip to a local grocery store and purchased food and drinks to pass out to the survivors at the airport.
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