Jamal Said Bakarsyum, a Security Manager from Singapore, recently came back from a trip to Palu, Indonesia, following the earthquake and tsunami in September.
I was part of the incident management team that International SOS deployed to Palu city in Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, following the earthquake and tsunami on 28 September 2018. We have a number of clients in Sulawesi that needed both evacuation and support to stay, dependent on their business needs. I travelled to Palu with Regional Security Manager Charles Timmis - our team leader, and Jakarta-based paramedic, Edy Safrudin.
Solution amidst challenges
The disasters damaged much of the city’s key infrastructure, including the airport and seaport. Despite being a provincial capital, Palu is situated in a remote corner of the Sulawesi island. The city was virtually unreachable except for a few routes that had been hastily cleared of debris after the tremor.
The team first flew to Makassar at the southern tip of the island - before driving almost 900km north to Palu.
Mission, expertly delivered
Due to the scale of the damage, planning for various situations along the route was essential. This included ensuring we had enough food and fuel for the mission. We also had an emergency response plan in place in case we faced a roadblock or a worsening security situation.
Knowing Edy had brought various medical supplies and a first aid kit meant we were able to focus on the mission without having to worry about our own health. Also, it was crucial to take our own medical supplies in a place where they were in high demand. My personal recent experience of leading an incident management team in Lombok, in August, proved valuable since I was able to establish contact with key people on the ground who conducted post-disaster response, which enabled us to have better visibility of the situation before our arrival.
Along the way, we activated our Palu-based information provider - and, working together, we located our clients quickly in the damaged city. We assisted people to exit Palu in the most effective way while giving continued support for those choosing to stay.
With the guidance of our provider, we visited various police stations, hospitals and evacuation centres to resolve a missing person case for a client. We also worked with an embassy that needed evacuation options for their stranded nationals outside of the city. Those who had been stuck within the city since the tsunami - after seeing us in person - expressed their relief as well as gratitude to have on-the-ground assistance in a crisis. In addition, our assistance capabilities enabled our clients to work in Palu less than one week following the disasters.
Armed with a variety of telecommunication devices, including satellite phones, our team was able to overcome telecommunication difficulties. We were able to feed valuable information back to the regional team in Singapore, who published International SOS daily alerts to inform our clients.
My Indonesian background meant I was able to converse with our local drivers fluently and therefore quickly grasp what to expect on the route ahead; this helped make our trip relatively smooth despite the distance and patchy quality of road. Their understanding of local dialects also allowed us to verify information from local police.
All in all, on this mission we helped a total of five organisations.