Cover Image
close this bookHandbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)
close this folder23. Staff Safety
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe UN Security System
View the documentEssential Plans
View the documentSecurity
View the documentSecurity Management
View the documentKey References

Essential Plans

10. In addition to the basic security plan, UNHCR offices must have a medical evacuation plan, and may have a movement control plan and routine radio checks.

The Security Plan

11. The security plan will be country specific and have five phases. The DO may implement measures under Phases One and Two at his or her own discretion, and notify the Secretary General accordingly. Phases Three to Five will normally be declared by the DO only with the prior authorization of the Secretary-General. However, if there is a breakdown in communications, DOs may use their best judgement with regard to the declaration of phases Three to Five, and report to the Secretary-General as soon as communications allow.

12. The UN security phases are:

Phase I: Precautionary

In this phase, clearance from the DO is required prior to travel.

Phase II: Restricted Movement

This phase imposes a high level of alert on the movements of UN staff members and their families. During this phase all staff members and their families will remain at home unless otherwise instructed.

Phase III: Relocation

This phase is declared by the Secretary General, on the advice of the DO. It includes concentration of all international staff members and their families, relocation of non-essential staff and families elsewhere in, or out, of the country. Deployment of new staff must be authorized by the Secretary General.

Phase IV: Programme Suspension

This phase is declared by the Secretary General, on the advice of the DO. It allows for relocation outside the country of all international staff not directly involved with the emergency, humanitarian relief operations, or security matters.

Phase V: Evacuation

This phase is declared by the Secretary General, on the advice of the DO. The evacuation of all international staff should be carried out according to plans prepared beforehand.

13. The person responsible for security at each location (DO, ASC) should draw up a security plan within the framework of the country security plan. This will need to be regularly updated. Each situation will be different and will require different levels and structuring of the plan. Guidelines for drawing up the plan are in the Field Security Handbook, and copied in the Checklist for the Emergency Administrator.

14. The following are typical headings in a security plan:

A. Summary of the security situation at the duty station.

B. Officials responsible for security: those in the local area, in Geneva and in New York, with their call signs, phone and fax numbers.

C. List of internationally recruited staff members and dependants. This will need to be updated constantly, and should include basic details such as full name, nationality, date of birth, passport and laisser-passer numbers with date and place of issue. A means of tracking visiting missions should be established. The UN Field Security Handbook contains annexes to record this information in a standard format; copies of these are also found in the UNHCR Checklist for the Emergency Administrator.

D. List and details of locally recruited staff and their dependants. This will need to be updated constantly.

E. Division of area into zones. Zones should be marked on a map with the numbers and residences of staff-members clearly marked. The map should indicate the warden responsible for each zone.

F. Communications. This should include details of phone numbers, call-signs and radio frequencies of all staff, including those of offices in neighbouring countries.

G. Selection of co-ordination centre and concentration points. The plan should indicate a number of co-ordination centres and concentration points, and should indicate the stocks and facilities which should be available at these points. It may not be possible for all staff-members to reach the same concentration point and alternatives should be foreseen.

H. Safe haven and means for relocation and evacuation. The plan should include information on all possible means of travel -by air, road, rail and ship as applicable. Normally only internationally recruited staff can be evacuated outside the country. Under the UN security system, the provisions for evacuation outside the country may be applied to locally-recruited staff members in only the most exceptional cases in which their security is endangered, or their property is lost or damaged as a direct consequence of their employment by UN organizations. Under the UN security system, a decision to evacuate locally recruited staff can only be made by the Secretary-General (based on recommendations by DO and UNSECOORD). However, during phases 3, 4 or 5, the DO may exceptionally either a) permit locally recruited staff to absent themselves from the duty station on special leave with pay or b) may relocate them to a safe area within the country and authorize payment of DSA for up to 30 days. Up to three months salary advance may be paid and a grant to cover transportation costs for the staff member and eligible family members. Arrangements to pay locally recruited staff these various amounts should be included in the plan.

I. Essential supplies: The plan should include estimates of the requirements for essential items of food, water, fuel etc. which will be needed by the community for a reasonable period of time. Individual items to be kept ready should also be listed. These include: passports, laissez-passers, vaccination certificates, travellers cheques and cash.

J. Plan for handing over the running of the office to the National Officer in charge.

Planning for evacuation


The security plan should note who will take what actions at the UNHCR office in the event of evacuation.

These actions include how to deal with confidential documents and individual case files (including those on computer files), financial data, cash, radios, computers and vehicles.

16. Any paper files which need to be destroyed in the event of sudden evacuation of the office should have been marked in a manner agreed-upon and understood by all staff. Such files would include: individual case files, local staff personnel files, etc. If time permits, the shredding and/or burning of these files should be a top priority. Emptying sensitive files onto the floor and mixing their contents with others will afford some protection if there is no time to burn them. Staff should be sensitive to the security situation and bear in mind when creating paper or electronic documentation that it might have to be left behind.

17. It should be agreed in advance which electronic files (including electronic mail files) should be deleted first. In order to truly destroy confidential electronic records from a computer disk (regardless of whether it is a hard disk or a floppy disk), it is necessary to use special software designed for this purpose. Merely deleting the file(s) does not remove the information from the disk, it only marks the space which the file occupies on the disc as being available for re-use.

1 Contained in IOM/104/94 FOM107/94.

Medical Evacuation Plan

18. Every office should have a medical evacuation plan to cover evacuation from that office. The plan should include information about the nearest medical facilities inside and (if appropriate) outside the country, what types of service they provide and to what standard, means of transport to these facilities in case of evacuation, and types of evacuation scenarios (the Checklist for the Emergency Administrator includes a format for a Medevac Plan, as well as flow charts1 for decision making for evacuation).

19. All heads of UNHCR country offices (i.e. representatives, chiefs of mission or, in their absence, the officer in charge) may authorize, without reference to Headquarters, medical evacuation of staff in the circumstances set out in detail in IOM/104/94FOM/107/94, New Medical Evacuation Scheme, and IOM/FOM 26/95, Medical Evacuation in Extreme Emergencies - SOS Assistance. These IOM/FOMs are included in the Checklist for the Emergency Administrator. Briefly, medical evacuation can be authorized:

i. For all international staff and consultants and eligible family members, in order to secure essential medical care which cannot be secured locally as a result of inadequate medical facilities (and which must be treated before the next leave outside the duty station);

ii. For local staff and eligible family members, in situations of great emergency when a life-threatening situation is present, or in cases of service-incurred illness or accident.

In addition, evacuation can be arranged in extreme emergencies through SOS Assistance (a private company which provides 24 hour world-wide emergency evacuation). However, this is very expensive and not covered by UN insurance. It can be used in life threatening situations, and where an evacuation by normal means cannot be organized in view of the gravity of the illness or injury. A password is needed before SOS Assistance takes action for UNHCR - heads of offices should ensure they obtain this password from the Division of Human Resource Management. The password should be known by the Head of Office and the Deputy Head of Office.

20. The medical evacuation plan should be written with close reference to the relevant IOM/FOMs, and the advice of the UNHCR programme health coordinator should be sought, as well as that of any medical NGOs. When an evacuation may be necessary, a UN Examining Physician should assist in decisions as to the degree of urgency and facilities required.

Movement Control Plan

21. A movement control plan should be prepared when there is a need to track the movement of vehicles, and should provide a means to determine the current location of the vehicles and passengers and whether they are overdue from a trip. The plan usually consists of a fixed schedule of radio calls to the vehicle from the base station (e.g. every 30 or 60 minutes) in order to report the current location of the vehicle to the base station. This information should be updated on a white-board following each radio-call. The driver of every vehicle should confirm safe arrival at the end of the trip.

Routine Radio Checks

22. Routine radio checks should be instituted when the current location and welfare of staff-members needs to be known. Radio calls from the base station can be made on a fixed schedule or randomly.