Coordinating Security Manager, Liliana Martinez, shares how we supported our clients and their people:
It had been nearly six years since the last major terrorist attack in Nairobi, Kenya – until 15-16 January 2019, when members of the Somalia-based Islamist extremist group al-Shabab stormed the Dusit D2 hotel in 14 Riverside Drive, in the affluent Westlands neighbourhood. The attack and subsequent security operation to secure the hotel and complex lasted for nearly 20 hours; although at least 700 people were successfully evacuated from the complex, 21 people have been reported killed, and 28 wounded.
The incident exemplifies the type of critical situation to which the team at International SOS and Control Risks is well-prepared to respond. Such incidents demand real-time responses to dynamic and rapidly changing developments on the ground: our team is equipped to react and work together in such challenging situations.
As the attack in Nairobi unfolded, our team of travel security professionals and security managers responded to more than 100 client requests, among them urgent requests for information on developments, requests for assistance in leaving the complex safely and retrieving belongings from the hotel when the siege had concluded, and requests for emotional support for colleagues who had been directly affected by the attack.
We also pushed out eight urgent alerts to clients over the course of about two days, including three alerts during the first 12 hours of the attack, to proactively inform members of changes and developments on the ground. Control Risks staff close to the complex were able to quickly confirm developments to ensure our members received the most accurate and timely information.
Through our relationship with Control Risks, we were able to arrange in-person support for clients directly affected by the attack. International SOS and Control Risks are able to offer emotional support options over the phone, in person, or on a referral basis through local hospitals, and our teams in Dubai and Johannesburg worked together to ensure the speedy delivery of appropriate support to clients.
We maintained constant contact with clients on the ground to ensure their employees were out of harm’s way, had the appropriate advice to remain safe, and were housed in a secure location. Our team followed up with members after the attack to provide reassurance and to confirm whether further assistance was needed, such as booking trips out of the country.
While the vast majority of hotel stays occur without incident, the Nairobi attack highlights the importance of reviewing accommodation risks and choosing a hotel that has been assessed for security in relation to the risk environment of its location. Hotels have been targeted by terrorist groups for a number of reasons. Notably, hotels are often international symbols and attacking them typically results in significant media attention, serving the aims of terrorist groups.
Even comparatively well-secured hotels can be targets of an attack – and in such a situation, the more preparation measures your employees have in place, the better. For example, we encourage travellers to familiarise themselves with the emergency procedures at the hotel where they are staying; to prepare a ‘grab bag’ with important documents, passport, money and a phone that can easily be picked up when leaving the room quickly; to monitor local news and our own alerts closely for any information that may affect their trip; and to familiarise themselves with the risk environment of the city or country, ideally before travel through a pre-travel briefing delivered by one of our Security Specialists. Although no risk can be completely avoided, many common risks can be effectively mitigated by such preparation.
Nairobi is a HIGH travel security risk environment, meaning enhanced precautions should be taken when travelling there, although normal business travel can continue. We recommend that travellers in Nairobi observe the below precautions:
• Contact the Assistance Centre for itinerary-specific pre-travel advice, including for advice on accommodation options.
• High crime rates pose a credible risk to travellers. Familiarise yourself with the crime risk areas of your destination prior to travel. Even in more affluent areas, minimise travel on foot.
• Arms ownership is common. In the event of being accosted, assume that your assailant is armed; do nothing to resist or antagonise the attacker.
• Exercise increased vigilance in the vicinity of 'soft' civilian targets such as hotels, shopping malls and crowded restaurants. If you detect unusual behaviour or suspect packages, leave the area immediately and notify the nearest member of the security forces.
• Minimise time spent in the vicinity of government buildings, diplomatic missions and security force installations.
Hear from Security Director, James Bird. Click here to listen to our special report on the attack.