Service: Natural Disaster Response 

Location: Mexico 

Control Risks provided crisis management advice and on-the-ground logistical security support to multiple clients in the direct aftermath of Hurricane Otis.  

No one expected the tropical storm brewing off the western coast of Mexico to do much of anything. Then, In the early hours of 25 October, Hurricane Otis made landfall, abruptly turning into a category 5 that slammed Mexico's western coast.

The storm brought 165 miles per hour winds and heavy rain, downing powerlines, destroying transportation infrastructure, and cutting off all communication. An absence of basic supplies and widespread looting made a precarious security situation even more so.

Calls started pouring in. On the other end were numerous clients needing support for employees trapped in Acapulco. Approximately 80 clients stood unaccounted for across the city. With minimal means of communication, the well-being of their people unknown, and a deteriorating security situation, our clients feared the worst.

First things first: we needed a clear picture of the situation on the ground. Some employees had sent text messages to family members. Alongside the client’s crisis management teams, we efficiently routed these scattered communications and a picture began to emerge of the situation inside the blacked-out disaster zone.

No time to waste

By mid-morning there was still no clear government response, but our team could no longer wait. Some of our client’s people were safe, but that wasn’t enough. We needed to account for everyone and get them out as quickly as possible. With no time to waste, and a developing sense of what we were heading into, our team prepared to make the 400km journey into Acapulco and begin evacuating the trapped employees.

Our first dispatch into the disaster zone was a pair of SUVs, each with a driver and a navigator – plus food, fuel, water, and medical supplies. Despite roads having been washed away or blocked entirely, and despite an increasingly uncertain security situation, our team arrived in Acapulco and got to work. Some of our client’s people were holed up in hotels, others out in the streets looking for help. Our team did what they always do and hit the ground running. They went door-to-door, gathering them up, getting everyone back to the safety of the hotels.

When all our client’s employees were accounted for, our team briefed everyone on the plan. More SUVs were coming, along with buses, all ready to ferry people out. With the streets turning more volatile by the minute, we had to be smart – fast but cautious.

In the end, our team swiftly planned and executed the evacuation of all client personnel safely out of the disaster zone and into Mexico City.

Learning from success

In the aftermath of crisis, taking the time to review even a successful response matters. In this case, it was clear that the ability to get into the disaster zone quickly had been key. If we had waited around for government action or a direct line of communication, we could have been putting 80 lives in jeopardy.

In this era of constant connectivity, it is rare that a city can be so completely cut off. Even more reason to be ready when it happens. We were ready, and so were our clients. Together we pulled it off and got everyone out within 48 hours of setting foot in Acapulco.  

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