Student studying in Fiji is evacuated during Cyclone Winston

Case study

The client

Working with a leading British University, Drum Cussac provided travel risk management for students studying and facilitating their studies overseas.

The situation

When Cyclone Winston, the worst storm ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, tore through the Pacific in February 2016, it left dozens of people dead and tens of thousands homeless and without water across the archipelago nation of Fiji.

A European student from our client’s institution was undertaking fieldwork on one of Fiji’s 300 islands at the time and was unfortunately caught in Winston’s crossfire. Most of her clothes, equipment and research were destroyed in the cyclone and she sustained several minor injuries.

With the island’s communications links and infrastructure severely affected and only limited official help getting through, she was keen to avoid being a burden on the local community, which was struggling to cope with the devastation.

As part of the University’s GlobalSOS coverage, the student had been provided with the emergency contact number for our Global Operations Centre before embarking on her trip overseas. When disaster struck, she contacted us for assistance.

Our response

Our operations team had been tracking and monitoring Cyclone Winston’s progress through GlobalRiskManager™ and had already sent multiple alerts through RiskMonitor, flagging up the risks to individuals in the area – so we were well aware of the potential threats involved.

Answering the student’s call for help, we mobilised our global network of local, pre-vetted security risk consultants to respond. We assigned a male consultant and a female chaperone to the case and they undertook a challenging journey, travelling over land and by air to reach the remote village where the student had taken shelter.

To ensure our operatives were able to travel quickly and efficiently, we tracked both consultants through PeopleMonitor and kept them abreast of developing post-cyclonic threats with regular alerts via GlobalRiskManager™.

Having reached the student, our consultants escorted her across the archipelago, eventually arriving at an airport on a neighbouring island, where international flights out of the area were still in operation.

Behind the scenes, we monitored every step of the evacuation in GlobalRiskManager™, alerting our operatives to any potential threats and also handled all of the administration involved in hiring vehicles, booking hotels and flights, as well as completing all the necessary travel paperwork on the evacuee’s behalf.

We arranged a telephone assessment of the student’s medical condition to check she was fit for both short and long-haul travel and did everything necessary for her comfort. She had been unable to contact her next of kin, so we kept them in the picture throughout her journey, tracking her welfare via GlobalRiskManager™ and communicating this to her loved ones.

The outcome

Within three days of the Drum Cussac team arriving on the island where the student had been conducting her research, she had entered European airspace and was on her way home. GlobalRiskManager™ was vital in ensuring the efficiency of this evacuation and providing clear situational awareness to both our in-house teams and travelling consultants.

Key actions

  • Prompt response by the local Drum Cussac team
  • Ongoing monitoring of potential additional threats in the evacuee’s location via GlobalRiskManager™
  • Ensuring regular contact with two-hourly welfare calls until help arrived
  • Necessities supplied for the evacuee’s comfort
  • All parties kept informed throughout, including next of kin
  • Contingency planning and reviewing of alternative methods of extraction at all stages (‘Plan B’)