Corporate Espionage Abroad

Targeting Recognition

Any person travelling abroad on business should be aware of the fact that they could be targeted by an intelligence agency, security service or a competitor if they are knowledgeable of, or carrying, sensitive or proprietary information. In the course of doing business abroad, there are certain indicators that may occur which should be recognised as potential hazards and indicative of unwarranted interest in your activities. These situations should be closely scrutinised and avoided if at all possible. A few of the most common scenarios that have been utilised by intelligence/security services and have led to successful targeting and acquisition of information are listed below:

Repeated contacts with a local or third country national who is not involved in your business interests or the purpose of your visit, but as a result of invitations to social or business functions, appears at each function. This individual’s demeanour may indicate more than just a passing interest in you and your business activities.

A close personal social relationship with a foreign national of a hostile host government is often unavoidable for business reasons. In these instances, be cautious and do not allow the relationship to develop any further than the strictly business level.

Be suspicious of the accidental encounter with an unknown local national who strikes up a conversation and wants to:

  • Practice English or other language.
  • Talk about your country of origin or your employment.
  • Buy you a drink because they have taken a liking to you.
  • Talk to you about politics.
  • Use a myriad of other excuses to begin a “friendly” relationship.

If any of the above or anything else occurs which just does not ring true, BE SUSPICIOUS! It may be innocent but, exercise prudence and good judgment.

Surveillance Recognition

The subject of surveillance is extremely important to anyone conducting business abroad. Surveillance could be indicative of targeting for reasons other than interest by a foreign intelligence or security service. Terrorists and criminals also use surveillance for operational preparation prior to committing other terrorist or criminal acts. It should be noted, however, that the normal business traveller, who only spends a few days in each city and has a low profile, is not really a viable target for terrorists and the risk is very low.

The real terrorist threat to a traveller is that of being at the wrong place at the wrong time and becoming an inadvertent victim of a terrorist act.

Surveillance is an assessment of vulnerabilities in an attempt to determine any information available, from any source, about you or your activities, such as lifestyle or behaviour that can be used against you. If the intended target recognises the fact that he or she is under surveillance, preventive measures can be taken that will hopefully deter further interest. As an example, if the surveillant(s) realises that he or she has been spotted, then the assumption must be that the operation has been compromised and that the police have been notified or other preventive measures have been taken. On the other hand, if a traveller is being scrutinized by a foreign intelligence or security agency, the surveillance may well continue.

Surveillance takes many forms, from static, such as an observer physically or electronically watching or monitoring your activities in your hotel room or office, to mobile surveillance where the individual being watched is actually followed either on foot or by vehicle.

How do you recognise surveillance? There is only one way: be ALERT to your surroundings. As a traveller, you probably will not be at any one location long enough to know what the norm is in your surroundings, and this puts you at a disadvantage. You will not realise that the person sitting in the car across the street is a stranger and should not be there, whereas a resident would immediately become suspicious.

Be observant and pay attention to your sixth sense. If you get the funny feeling that something is not right or that you are being watched, PAY ATTENTION! That sixth sense is trying to tell you something, and more often than not it will be right.

In any event, report your suspicions or any information to the general manager of the local affiliate or your embassy or consulate just in case something does occur. If there is any question about what actions should be taken, and guidance is not available from the affiliate, contact your embassy or consulate and they will advise you as to what you should do and whether or not the information should be reported to the local authorities. But, the most important thing you should do is make sure that your demeanour is professional and everything you do is above board and not subject to compromise.

If you have reason to believe that you are under surveillance, here is what you should NOT do:

  • DO NOT try to slip away or lose the followers as this will probably alert them and believe the fact that you are just a business person or tourist going about your business.
  • In your hotel room, assume that the room and telephone are being monitored. DO NOT try to play investigator and start looking for electronic listening devices. This again could send the wrong signals to the surveillant. Just make sure that you do not say or do anything in your hotel room that you would not want to see printed on the front page of the New York Times.


If you have any reason to believe that you are targeted by an intelligence or security service, there is really only one course of action to follow. Report your suspicions to your company affiliate or embassy or consulate and follow their guidance.

This post was originally published on the ‘Direct Travel Insurance‘ website and is being re-published here as an effort to disseminate this good information with more viewers.


Managing Security In Multi-Tenant Facilities


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You may be the world’s most careful driver but how sure are you that the driver in front of you will not bend down to retrieve his phone, realize he is now too close to the car in front of him and break hard, cause you to ram into him and the people behind you to ram into you? This happened to me and it can very well happen to you! Will your safe driving skills be enough to protect you on the road where other drivers and their carelessness impacts your fate?

Managing security in multi-tenant facilities is a lot like driving on a busy highway – just like you get all the good mileage you can and gets you to your destination faster, managing security here gets you the big pay scales, opportunity to network amongst the industry key players, the exciting training and development opportunities, business travel, take home vehicles, big fat year end bonuses and much like the highway, gets you to your desired destination in terms of promotions much faster!

However, along with all the perks comes the nightmare of sharing space in a bigger structure with other companies and their employees that do not follow your organization’s security guidelines. You become exposed to many threats and risks that would never be present had you a separate place to call home. Does this mean you pack up and move to a new facility? Well, if your organization can afford to, why not? But you don’t always have to! There are ways you can make the best of this situation and continue working right where you are!

Let’s say you are managing security for a multi national corporation that is housed

Bahria Complex - Karachi

in a very prominent landmark commercial tower such as the Bahria Complex in Karachi. Your boss is expecting a very important client to stop over at 3pm on a Friday afternoon. You have done what you do every time this happens; made sure arrangements are made with administration, have him signed in, meeting room has been checked for any safety/security hazards, external security has been given the license plate number for authorized access to drop off client in front of the entrance, lobby security has been notified of the visitor and an identified member of the security team will be on stand by to receive the guest at the lobby registration desk 15 minutes prior to the scheduled time.

The problem begins when the client arrives half an hour early and the post-Friday prayer traffic rush has just started! The client is now waiting in a line in front of the revolving door, with everyone from the jerk from the next office to the smelly guy from 3rd floor in front of him. What’s worse, he is completely exposed! He gets in to the building safe but now is met with yet another line in front of the elevator – what do you do? Tell him “sorry but you are 30 minutes early and our guy was going to be down there waiting for you in 15 minutes!”? Yeah right!

The ability to analyze a situation that has not yet happened, come up with as many worse case scenarios for this one situation and their solutions is a skill that not many security professionals are good at. Some security managers now hire staff that has the only task of coming up with these worse case scenarios and solutions for tackling them. Maybe if this would have been the case with the scenario above, your boss could have been advised against a meeting at that time on that day or maybe an alternate venue could have been chosen to avoid any mishaps altogether, given that Fridays in Pakistan are normally very unpredictable and avoiding them altogether is a very good way to go.

The level of security one can achieve depends on how much authority the person has over the facility. Sure, east wing on the 22nd floor is yours but how do you cover everything else directly above or below you?

Here are a couple of things that can be done to overcome this problem. An integrated security design for your facility that is aligned with every tenant as well as the building management can be a great start. From the final  approach towards your property all the way to the roof and in some cases, even the buildings right next to you should be on a somewhat same page as you. Access security, elevators, hallways, fire escapes, emergency exits, parking areas and the roof have to be all under one security umbrella.

When asked to share top concerns when managing security in a multi-tenant facility, one security professional; Brendan Keane, Chief of Staff for Homeland Security Department at the Long Island Business Institute stated “Communication is one of the top concerns. While this may be an obstacle within any organization, depending on size and complexity, it usually is an issue when sharing commercial space. My organization conducts exercises that are not required by the other tenants in the building. It is imperative to communicate with the neighbors beforehand to ensure them that all is well and indeed it is just a drill”.

When I asked Brendan what methods he uses to communicate their emergency drills and exercises with other tenants of the facility and whether he gives them the option to participate? He stated..

“We communicate with the building management beforehand through meetings. Even with this, we communicate the day of the exercise personally to each neighbor in our building. This may not work at larger facilities, which I suggest a security manager should have a contact in each company, whether by e-mail or phone, to whom they can share the exercise plans”.

Avari Towers Karachi

Hotels are another nightmare for businesses to be housed in these days, especially when they are on the top of any terrorist threat lists. A hotel if attacked will not only cause your staff and clients a lot of injuries and in most cases deaths, it will shut or slow your operations for a very long time.

If not a terrorist threat, since hotels are centrally powered and utilities are all shared, you could be left to deal with problems such as utility breakdowns that are not even in your control. Whether it is Unilever at Avari Towers Karachi or an international NGO in Serena Hotel Islamabad, they are all relying heavily at the security being implemented by the management and in order to remain safe, they should have a say in how things are managed all the way from the gate to the underground parking garages.

The problem is that location is key when it comes to housing businesses as they say something about the reputation and prestige your business holds and famous

Marriott Blast - Islamabad

landmarks make it easy for your customers to find you. On the flip side, the more famous the building, the better target it makes. A prime example of this is 20th Sept 2008, Marriott Hotel in Islamabad was attacked by a suicide bomber who drove a truck packed with explosives into its main gate and strategically detonated two bombs for maximum casualties. Not only did the hotel suffer in terms of countless lives lost, people injured, property damaged to ruins but a very prominent business building right next to it suffered heavily as well.

In case you are a person assigned with security for an organization that is based in a building such as a hotel or a very famous landmark tower, it would be wise to look at the whole picture and the bits and pieces around it. Look not only at what is going on once you enter the facility grounds, but what is outside and around it.

  • Are there dangerous intersections famous for accidents and hit and runs?
  • Are there any traffic bottlenecks that could leave staff members unprotected and exposed to external threats?
  • Is your facility on or close to a route frequented by VIP movements?
  • What kind of guests usually stay at the hotel? Are they political or diplomatic?
  • Do people protest and riot around the vicinity?
  • What other businesses are operating inside and outside the hotel?
  • Would the hotel be open to sharing some details of sensitive/important guests at their facility that could jeopardize your safety and work with you to implement protective measures or simply just give you a heads up?

Aside from questions like the ones above, you have to ask yourself if you have a system in place to audit and gage the level of security that the facility (management) has in place. Have you made an effort to communicate with your counterparts in other organizations that are in the building with you to establish a common security program that works for everyones safety and security and not just yours?

Initiating an awareness program is also another method you can use to get everyone on board. It could be something like the ‘See Something Say Something‘ campaign launched in the USA where your staff, neighbors and even visitors can keep a vigilant eye out for you and you can do the same for them. If the finance guy from the 5th floor sees a member of your organization walking out with something he is not supposed to, he could tell you and in turn, act as a security guard that you do not even pay, the entire building becomes your extended department!

This type of a strategy only works if everyone is on board so the better your awareness and information dissemination is, the better the chances that more people will come along with you. Make them feel that this is something they need, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your sales and marketing folks and work with them to get some good copy-writing done and turn this program into a ‘must have’ for the entire building that your sales staff can help you sell.

Security Managers from other businesses in your facility may (hopefully) be keeping some sort of records of incidents or mishaps that occur during their watch. From vandalizing property, office theft, elevator assault, mugging in the parking lots or simply a case of faulty wiring that has or could cause electric fire. These are all pieces of very useful information that could be put together in an overall facility risk assessment. How about starting a centralized database where everyone can access it and feed their information so that a review can take place quarterly and numbers can be analyzed so preventive and corrective measures are put in place.

Another big problem with sharing a building is that your emergency plans are not the same as the organizations around you. You could have the best evacuation plan in the world but if other organizations have something different or worse, don’t have a plan at all, your people will evacuate perfectly out of their spaces and right into screaming chaos! Get other security and safety managers in the building together and share with them your plans for evacuation; shelter in place; lock downs; supplies, etc! Try to get others to share their plans and help them develop one if they don’t have a plan of their own. Each organization can even start a funding system where every organization in the building puts in a fixed amount every month to pool in their resources and equip the building with emergency supplies, equipments and trainings.

The point of all this is that working in a multi-tenant facility does not always have to be a nightmare; it can work to your benefit if approached strategically. It can do more good for everyone than maybe it would if it was just your organization. Different organizations mean diverse group of security and safety experts and greater funding. Use it to your advantage rather than letting it cause harm.

If you would like us to design or consult on an inter-organizational awareness plan for your facility, design a customized facility safety and security database or help audit your present facility security and give you an outsiders view, give us a call or write to us and we would be glad to speak with you right away.

Stay Well – Stay Safe!

N Khan

Founder | Chief Consultant
C: +92-341-2020-359      
Skype: aftershock-cem                                                                                                Email:

Pakistan school bus attack kills teacher and three children | World news | The Guardian


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This article written by Declan Walsh originally appeared on on September 13, 2011.

Pakistan school bus attack kills teacher and three children

Islamist gunmen target bus near city of Peshawar in latest round of turf war between Taliban and militias

A boy injured in the Pakistan school bus attack

A boy injured in the attack on the school bus is treated at a hospital in Peshawar. Photograph: Mohammad Sajjad/AP

Islamist gunmen opened fire on a school bus in north-western Pakistan on Tuesday morning, killing a teacher, three children and the driver in the latest round of a vicious turf war between insurgents and pro-government militias near the region’s largest city.

The shooting in Matani, on the outskirts of Peshawar, occurred as a bus carrying boys and girls aged between nine and 14 returned from the Khyber Model school.

The children hailed from a village where men have formed a large lashkar, or tribal militia, to repel Taliban incursions into their area.

The attackers first fired a rocket, which missed the bus, then sprayed the vehicle with gunfire, a senior police officer in Peshawar said. Five people died instantly and at least 17 were wounded.

TV footage showed wounded teenage boys, some writhing in pain, crowded into a Peshawar hospital ward where they were awaiting treatment.

Tribesmen in Adezai, a village in Matani district, formed the lashkar in late 2008 in response to Taliban incursions. Armed volunteers carry out foot patrols, stand guard at fortified battlements and support police operations to secure the area, which includes the gun-producing village of Dara Adam Khel.

There have been bloody exchanges of fire with a pro-Taliban Islamist militia that seeks to dominate the area and lashkar leaders say they have come under attack 40 times in three years, resulting in the death of more than 130 people.

One tribal elder, Ijaz Bacha, was killed along with two police officers in a massive car bomb attack on his home last June.

Tuesday’s bloodshed marked the first deliberate attack on children but was not the first violence targeting civilians.

Militants have repeatedly attacked ordinary villagers in an effort to break their support for the lashkar.

One such attack was a suicide bombing on mourners at a funeral last March in which 43 people died and more than 50 were wounded.

Lashkar leaders complain of insufficient official back-up, particularly a lack of ammunition, and have threatened to withdraw their support of the government.

Police officials say they fear the lashkar could spin out of their control if it is armed too heavily.

Separately, the bodies of two men were found in Lakki Marwat at the southern end of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Tuesday. A note said they had been executed for spying on a commander of the Pakistani Taliban.

When Terrorism Strikes Too Close To Home


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This post is dedicated to Moeed and his mother Mumtaz – both innocent victims of the 19th September blast in DHA, Karachi. And to thousands of other victims that have lost their lives to the brutalities of some.

Terrorism – It is a word the world has sadly gotten used to very fast. There used to be a time when only some parts of the world were at risk of experiencing it first hand, parts of world that were either under developed or those that were actively engaged in shaping foreign policies such as the USA and UK. This is no longer the case; now terrorism is a threat that is feared by countries and continents alike. From Mumbai to Manhattan and New Delhi to Norway, everyone is bracing for something bad to happen.

The word ‘terrorism‘ has many meanings as there are many different types of terrorism but a universally agreed upon meaning, which is: violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for a religious, political or ideological goal, and deliberately target or disregard the safety of civilians.

A country that is no stranger to the word has seen a large variety of terrorist acts, starting long ago when most people did not even know where it was located on the globe. Terrorism in Pakistan comes in as many shapes, sizes and forms as you can think of; ranging from explosions, arson, deadly rioting, target killing, religious persecution or simply a mugging or home invasion resulting in a number of people dead.

This Monday, 19 September 2011 it was a 300 kg car bomb (otherwise known as a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device – VBIED) that went off as it was driven into the house of the Senior Superintendent Police, Criminal Investigative Division, Chaudhry Aslam Khan in an area called ‘Defense Housing Authority (DHA)’ on the Karachi coastline. This house sits no more than 150 yards from a few schools out of which our daughter attends one and about 1.3 kilometers away from our house. This attack claimed the lives of eight people including a schoolboy named Moeed and his mother, a teacher at the same school as him, Mumtaz who like many others, were on their way to the start of the school day.

The saddest part about any bombing is that it extends farther out than just its immediate location by damaging all surrounding buildings, injuring and killing innocent citizens and leaving our children with fear and long lasting post traumatic stress.

While our house was safe and out of harm’s way, it was still close enough to have felt the impact early that morning. During the early hours of the morning of rushing around to head our daughter off to school, there was an enormous bang! The closest description would be for you to imagine 20 doors slamming shut all at once.

Thinking it could be one of the many alarming sounds we’re used to (cars backfiring, kids shooting firecrackers), we didn’t think too much about it. That is, until our phones started going off at the same time and we started receiving text messages from friends and family asking if we were safe and unhurt. Turning off the cartoons, exiting our daughter from the room and switching to the breaking news, we saw our daughter’s school sitting front and center in the camera shot, dangerously close to the origin of the bomb blast!

The schools suffered damages to the property and at this time are closed until further notice. A relative who also happens to attend the same school as our daughter but takes the school bus and therefore has to leave early. He arrived at the school approximately 10 minutes after the bomb went off and then was transported back home along with the other children, not before seeing shattered glass and doors inside the school.

Had it happened an hour later with students in school and more explosives packed into the bomb, results would have been catastrophic!

There are many questions parents will be asking themselves and (hopefully) the school administration very soon – some of which have already been asked but this time, a simple ‘we have a very vigilant watchman here’ will not suffice. When it comes to terrorism and children, we cannot be ignorant and play along and act as if everything will be fine, just because people tell us so.

  • What steps will the schools take in order to prevent injuries and loss of lives if this type of an incident occurs again?
  • Do the schools have emergency plans in place to handle a variety of natural and man-made disasters?
  • Are the staff and teachers trained to carry out the plans when an emergency takes place?
  • Will flow of traffic be more restricted and monitored in and around the school zones to prevent something like this from happening again?
  • Is letting school buses arrive at schools minutes after a bomb has gone off really the right thing to do? In many cases, a secondary explosive is set off minutes after the primary goes off.
  • Are we safer or more in danger by having a police facility next to schools knowing the types of threats these facilities draw in?

Given the recent statistics of terrorism in Karachi, they will most probably occur again. Not necessary at the same location; within the close vicinity of? Sure!

Most vulnerable targets of such acts of terrorism are outside the homes and offices of VIPs or while in transit, important infrastructure such as military and law enforcement facilities, supply routes and vehicles and sadly, targets that will cause a great amount of psychological impact such as people in the middle of offering their prayers in a mosque; a religious procession in the month of Moharram; holiday shopping sprees in malls; children attending schools, etc.

What makes this worse is that all of these incidents have taken place and yet no real interest in preparing for future incidents has been sparked.

So the million-dollar question is: What can a school do to safeguard against these threats? Well for starters, it can conduct a threats and risks analyses and use them to establish guidelines and procedures for its staff, parents, teachers and students. Train everyone on what to expect, how to react, what to do and more importantly, what NOT to do. When it comes to disasters, whether man-made or natural, what counts the most is preparation and the ability to respond!

Imagine yourself as a teacher on the first or second floor of a school with 20 students in the classroom and there are eight to ten classrooms in total, with only two exits. You have 160 to 200 students that are anywhere from six to ten years old that are scared, confused, crying, shocked and need their teachers to think FOR them. If the teachers and staff do not know how to react to a sudden explosion or earthquake, one can only imagine what the results would be.

A good threats assessment will not only identify areas that need the school administrator’s urgent attention, it will also make them ask themselves important questions such as:

  • What parts of the school are most vulnerable and to which threats?
  • What happens when an incident like this takes place?
  • What do the students do right after an incident takes place?
  • What steps do the teachers take to safeguard their students from further danger?
  • Will staff and teachers be able to react fast and calm and take charge of their students?
  • What roles and responsibilities does everyone assume?
  • How do the parents find out about their child(ren) if the phone lines are down?
  • How can the parents help the school achieve a better state of readiness?
  • How will urgent medical treatment be provided for in case the school is cut off from outside help?
  • How many people need to be trained in emergency first aid to cover the schools worse case scenario?
  • How do the parents pick up their children if the entire area is affected and cordoned off?
  • Does the school have an emergency supplies cache in case it is too dangerous to go outside?
  • Will the school be able to recover from a disaster and resume some level of normalcy soon after?
  • Does the school have an information point of contact for parents to find out important information?

In cases such as this recent attack near the school, more people get hurt in the panic that comes after the attacks than by the incident itself. It is no longer adequate to run things on a day-to-day basis with ad-hoc arrangements; careful planning  is needed to ensure safety standards are maintained and regular training needs to be conducted to ensure plans are followed when needed and improved over time.

Infrastructure also needs to be re-visited and assessed whether it is capable of handling such incidents or not; are the windows secure and fitted with safety film to avoid shattering; are proper blast resistant doors installed and made to open outwards to avoid pressure from blasting the doors inwards and potentially cause injuries; is there a secure secondary exit and has it been regularly maintained to ensure no obstacles are in the path to this exit; are loose and heavy items securely bolted to the walls and floors to avoid injuries from falling objects?                                 

The school our daughter attends happens to be one of the best the country has to offer, with foreign exchange programs, scholarships, music programs, extra curricular activities such as martial arts and roller blading and parents spend a lot of money to put their children in these programs. An emergency management program would cost no more than roller blading does but will go a long way for the safety of everyone involved, not just the students but staff and teachers as well.

There are two ways this state of preparedness and prevention can be achieved:

1. School Administration looks at past incidents and future threats and takes an initiative to step up its efforts to make their campus a safe and secure environment for its population to be in. It involves all stakeholders including the student body, parents, teachers, staff, community residents and local government to help reach its goals.

2. Parents and other stakeholders of the school take it upon themselves to ensure that the above goals are met by initiating dialog with the school administration and actively work to help them set things in motion. While the school has the primary responsibility to ensure everyone is kept safe and secure within its premise, sometime it does not appear on the top of their priority list or they feel that whatever arrangements they do have in place, will be sufficient!

Coming out to the streets and protesting is all well and good but at the end of the day, protests in Pakistan only go so far because after the protests are over; everyone goes back to their routines.

Remember – Prevention is the Best Cure!

Stay Well – Stay Safe!

Naveed Khan
Founder | Chief Consultant

*All images are courtesy of various websites on the web – photos of the damaged school facilities were taken from The Express Tribune and all rights are that of the tribune website.

Floods: No lessons learnt from mistakes


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This article originally appeared on Business Recorder on August 23, 2011.

At the risk of starting this commentary with a clichéd adage, prevention is better than cure. At least thats what one is strongly reminded of as the latest episodes of flooding in Sindh are unraveling in the country. The Pakistani government seems to be more concerned with the cure part of the statement than with prevention.

Though the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) were quick in providing emergency relief – as much as could be facilitated – to those affected, the sequel to that – recovery strategies and better disaster risk reduction measures – are yet to be seen. And before the concerned authorities had time to get their hands dirty and develop some sustainable plans to prevent future disaster outbreaks, hundreds of villages were submerged by another deluge in Sindh.

Its not like the government had not been urged to take relevant steps in the aftermath of the flood to prevent such a crisis in the future. The World Banks Damage and Needs Assessment (DNA) report contained detailed policy recommendations for various sectors as well as disaster risk management strategy in detail. These included multi-faceted measures from enhanced community awareness and institutional development, especially of NDMA and PDMA; to catastrophe risk financing and early warning systems.

A report by Oxfam entitled Six months into the floods, published earlier this year points this out, “Successful models for community involvement in improving disaster resilience do exist…If such activities were appropriately scaled-up and applied nationally, Pakistan would be better equipped to cope with disasters.” So prototypes for the authorities to follow were always there. But were the recommendations actually paid heed to? Oxfam goes on to lament on the plight of the recovery process in Pakistan: “A lack of political will and investment, especially at the critical but under resourced district and provincial levels, has meant that local authorities have struggled to co-ordinate and manage responses. There is often a complete disconnect between national and provincial level decision making.” Such conditions stoke widespread discontentment among people who feel that developmental work is accorded very low priority while government representatives squander time and resources on political games and gimmicks.

Given that theres a window of time within which sustainable reconstruction has to be finished before the next monsoon strikes, and given the uncertain nature of calamities, disaster risk reduction is not one of those developmental projects that could be shelved aside to create fiscal space, as the cascading impacts could limit fiscal space much more in the years to come. The implications of this attitude of near indifference to such pressing issues can be far-reaching. From the dwindling trust of private and institutional donors leading to patchy foreign and domestic assistance, to a rapidly expanding mountain of inter-related developmental problems, the impact will be far from pretty.

Pakistan has been affected by five major floods since 1947, and over 60 years is too long a time to learn to be proactive. And looking at the rapidity of climate changes, the time span between such disasters is only getting shorter. Swiftness, priority, and development of sustainable strategies, therefore, should be the governments best friends in bracing up for future such calamities.

QuickTips for July – Important Information Needed After A Disaster (via Belmont – San Carlos CERT)



While this is mainly for the US communities, some of the information can be applied worldwide.

Think of what information you will need to carry on after a disaster. Much, but not all, of our important information today is stored in our computers. Copies of this information should be kept in a safe place such as a safe deposit box, at a relative's house, outside the house with other disaster supplies or in a go-bag. Thumb drives could be very useful to store this information. If you are not computer capable, make do with copy machines. Here … Read More

via Belmont – San Carlos CERT

Community Disaster Preparedness Survey – FOR KARACHI RESIDENTS

Hello Karachiites!

We are trying to collect some very important data to streamline our efforts for disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness for the Karachi coastal communities.

Please take a few minutes to fill out this survey: and try leaving us enough information to get back to you with more details, tips, advice and upcoming events and services. If you live in Karachi and would like to become prepared for disasters; natural or man-made, this survey will help us with some important facts.

Hope to get a lot of participation for this!

Stay Well – Stay Safe!

N Khan

Founder | Chief Consultant



Karachi Coastline – Is It Prepared For A Japan-Like Scenario?


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We would like to say yes but unfortunately, we don’t think so!

Karachi at Night

Karachi, also known as the hub of Pakistan’s financial life line, has approximately 187,343,000 inhabitants spread over 3,527 km and is home to the only major sea port on which the nation entirely relies for its major import and export businesses. The problem here is that as important as Karachi is to Pakistan’s well being and growth, it has NOT prepared for a massive catastrophe, even after a history of similar natural disasters within the Country.

But let’s not even talk about Karachi as a whole; instead, let’s just talk about the Karachi shoreline and the areas around it that include (but are not limited to)  Kimari, Mai Kolachi, Clifton, Sea View and the Defense Housing Authority (DHA) that falls within instant striking distance of related sea hazards.

This part of Karachi is spread around roughly 70 km and is home to an estimated number of 900,000 people,  15,000  houses, 4000 apartment flats, roughly 8000 commercial establishments including offices, retailers, malls and restaurants. There are around an additional 2, 300 to 3,000 people that visit this part of Karachi on any given day of the week for either business or pleasure.

So now consider this, you have just dropped off your kids at school, left behind a wife and maybe parents, are on your way to work which could be on the other side of town.

All of the sudden, an earthquake that would measure anywhere from 6.0 to 9.0 on the Richter scale strikes and following immediately after, a giant tsunami crashing all around us just as it did Japan. You turn around to rush back for your family but there is no way you can get back over, because there is mass chaos and destruction. You try to reach your family by cell but the cellular network is down too!

The only question is ‘were YOU and your loved ones prepared for something like this?’ And only YOU can answer that question!

Isolated Victims moving to a shelter from Sendai School

Did you know that in one School hit by the Japan earthquake and tsunami, 77 students along with 10 teachers lost their lives as they were buried under rubble and water? One of the few students that survived was under the care of a teacher who had previous experience dealing with a tsunami and refused to listen to the school’s management and took his student to higher ground for safety.

Sadly, it takes one really bad experience for us to learn and maybe for some of us, one BAD experience is all WE will ever get.

We also witnessed a somewhat similar disaster in Pakistan when the northern part of the country was hit by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake in 2005 leaving countless damaged schools and hundreds of students buried alive! To make matters worse, the area’s emergency services were also paralyzed leaving quick emergency response very slow to come.

Is it then safe to say that there is a strange ignorance within us that makes us live in the moment and have no sense of pro-active prevention? While we know what has happened and could happen and what it would do to us and our loved ones?

Many of us are also the first to raise fingers and point them at anyone and everyone including  the government, police, military, Americans, Indians (some of you readers may find this amusing but a lot of us actually blamed Indians for the recent flooding crisis in Pakistan), religion, race, aliens, zombies and god knows whoever and whatever else we can find or think of but never once do we take it upon ourselves to fix what is wrong.

Instead of asking ourselves some important safety questions such as ‘what would I do if that was to happen to me and my family?’ and ‘do I know where the safest shelter is for me to keep myself and my family safe?’, we turn our minds to something else such as ‘should we go out for lunch at that new cafe?’, ‘I want to get a bigger plasma screen’ and ‘I want to get that new Toyota mark X!’

The only problem with this is, unless your Toyota Mark X can fly you out of this shoreline when the earth beneath you is cracking apart and a gigantic wave is chasing your tail, you might as well get a donkey that knows how to swim and give you CPR! At the end of the day, your ‘NEEDS’ should take priority instead of all the ‘WANTS’ piled up in your head.

Then again, I may just be wrong and it may just be that people here actually are aware of these hazards and have taken steps to prevent and prepare. To put these doubts to rest we conducted a Community Disaster Preparedness Survey on and around this Karachi shoreline, below are the results we found, they are unedited and presented here to give everyone an insight to just how prepared we really are!

  • 0 out of 10 people that reside on the Karachi shore know of any evacuation route(s) and where the safest area for shelter is in case of a natural or man–made disaster
  • 9 out of 10 people that reside on the Karachi shore do not know CPR or Emergency First Aid
  • 9 out of 10 people that reside on the Karachi shore do not have emergency first aid kits or fire extinguishers in their homes
  • 8 out of 10 people that reside on the Karachi shore do not have emergency savings funds for post disaster survival
  • 0 out of 10 people that reside on the Karachi shore have emergency supply kits in case of a disaster
  • 0 out of 10 people that reside on the Karachi shore know what to do if there was a natural disaster similar to Japan
  • 9 out of 10 schools that are on or within 5 kms of the Karachi shore do not conduct emergency drills for hazards such as fires and earthquakes
  • 0 out of 10 apartments that are on the Karachi shore have an Emergency Plan for their buildings/residents such as evacuation procedures, routes, etc. 3 out of 10 have fire extinguishers and out of the three, only 1 has staff trained in proper use of the device  
  • 1 out of 5 police posts or emergency stations that are on or within 5 kms the Karachi shore have life saving equipment but NONE have been trained in emergency life saving tactics/water rescue
  • 0 out of 3 hospitals within 5 kms of the Karachi shore have an emergency response plan for such disasters – upon inquiring why, the administrators simply had no reason!
  • 90% out of the people that were approached for this survey refused to participate because (while shopping or just hanging around) they did not have the time

Did you know that the 2005 earthquake that devastated our nation gave birth to ‘National Disaster Management Authority’ (NDMA) in 2007? NDMA’s mandate is “to manage complete spectrum of disasters by adopting a disaster risk reduction perspective in development planning at all levels, and through enhancing institutional capacities for disaster preparedness, response and recovery.”

However, after five years of existence and a few billions in funding, all they have been able to do for this small part of Karachi is train about half a dozen life guards (who are almost NEVER anywhere near the coast) and install three skull and bones hazard signs that do not tell the public JACK about what they are supposed to do in case of inclement weather. Although one Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) website does offer some good tips and advice for us to follow before, during and after a disaster, let’s give credit where its due!

Periodic NDMA and City District Government Karachi (CDGK) advertisements in the newspaper which are probably supposed to create awareness in the readers on preventive and responsive measures in case of natural hazards such as Cyclones, a great initiative but instead of useful tips and emergency do it yourself (DIY) procedures, the advertisements end up covering things such as:

  • Do not drink stale water                                       
  • Do not go outside in the rain
  • Wear rubber shoes/slippers in the rain
  • Do not let children go outside in the rain

Seriously? All this points to the fact that the wrong people have been put in the wrong seats, have been given responsibilities that are far beyond their expertise and are now clueless as to what to say and do to get the job done! As far as that website with one page of advice goes, great initiative but I am doing the same sitting with my laptop with $0 funding!

Now, I am sure that some of you will say and find comfort in the “Insha-Allah we will all be just fine” thought but just in case you are wrong and we are not fine.. Here is a list of things you can do to be better prepared!

  • Find out what threats and hazards you and your family are most exposed to and start preventing against them
  • Build an emergency shelter at home and/or find the nearest (and safest) shelter area and take a drive there to see how long it would take you to reach in heavy traffic
  • Get an Emergency Survival kit
  • Get a portable fire extinguisher (if you live in Karachi, a good place to buy one is Ebco at the Forum)
  • Start an emergency supplies cache (such as mineral water, canned food, nutrition bars, hygiene gear, etc) and do not use it for any other reason than a disaster
  • Make an emergency plan (get important documents such as property ownerships and insurance policies, a few cheques (otherwise known as checks), duplicate ATM and credit cards, updated contact list including friends, family, public health and safety as well as other NGO type emergency management resources available) and talk to someone outside your city on the possibility of you and your family moving in until the disaster has been controlled
  • Learn life-saving skills such as CPR, emergency first aid and basic fire fighting
  • Find out how to turn your electricity and gas off from the main lines (usually all you have to do is flip the big handle down)
  • Talk to your neighbors and ask them to join you in this effort (more can be done if this ends up being a collective effort)
  • Talk to your community government; in most cases a town nazim (administrator) would be the right first person to help you get what you need in order to set up an emergency management plan for the neighborhood – if you don’t get a good response, call us!

You do this and we guarantee you that you and your family will be ten times more prepared than the ones that don’t.. Having said this however, we understand that all this is easier said than done! You may not know who to contact for learning the skills or setting up an emergency management plan, in this case, check us out on the web and get in touch with us NOW!

We may not be able to help you get that brand new Toyota Mark X but will definitely help you prepare for a disaster!



Stay Well – Stay Safe!

N Khan

Founder | Chief Consultant
C: +92-341-2020-359
Skype: aftershock-cem


Fires in High Rise Structures – The Bad, The UGLY! (Part Two)


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Picking up right where we left off a few days back and hoping that you all took it to heart, let’s continue reading what Ryan Alles, President of High Rise Escape Systems, has to say about how YOU can be safer, wherever you are!

Ryan Alles:

Whether in a multi-story building or not, here are some fire safety tips that I would like to share with you:

  • Clean your dryer vent out each time you start a new load. If you haven’t pulled it away from the wall within the last year to pull the extra lint out of the hose connection or if you need to add more time to any load because it’s still damp, then its definitely time to clean it out. It may seem inconvenient but I’ll bet it takes you less than 5 minutes and makes you sleep better at night!
  • NEVER store flammable liquids or products near your water heater (paint cans, beach chairs, cleaning products, etc). I understand that closet space is a big deal in condos but safety is more important. Store these flammable containers under the sink or on the tops of closets (this is a better option if you have young children) is a better place.

After a rash of high rise fires in my hometown at Cocoa Beach, Florida I was invited to speak to their City Council on        Supplemental Evacuation. Chief G.C. Wine IV approached me afterward and shared a story of a fire on the 9th floor that quickly got out of hand, solely because of paint and other combustibles being stored in a hot water heater closet when the hot water heater overheated.

Just to stress my point of planning two ways out, Chief Wine also mentioned that when his firefighters got the ladder truck up to the 7th floor, they were greeted by a dozen people in “hover-rounds” (battery-operated wheelchairs) that were screaming to get them outta there! Now, who is going to put out the fire when his resources are suddenly committed to rescue? Not to mention, this is just the 7th floor, 2 floors below the fire floor!

Make a plan: Take 20 minutes to regularly practice your planned, effective escape routes – especially if you have kids – and never, ever count on the elevator! One of the most important reasons elevators should never be considered as an escape route is referred to as “Phase 1 recall”. It ends up being a trap since the area where you would wait for an elevator on any given floor is referred to as the “elevator lobby” and usually houses a smoke detector. What happens is this:  If on ANY floor, the detector goes into alarm mode, ALL the elevators will descend to the ground level to wait for the Fire Department. Always take the stairs first if it is possible and practice it together with your family.

 Time your planned escape routes to see how well your family can handle the physical requirements under non-stressful conditions when no one else is descending. Next, find a place to meet a safe distance away from the building in case you and your family members become separated. If you have young children, make sure they have a list of emergency contact names and numbers (besides you) to call on their person that is preferably someone who DOES NOT live in your building.

The kids will have fun practicing this with you but you will sleep better tonight, knowing that your children will always be safe. Every time I go out with my children, I give each of them my business card to hand to someone if they’re lost. It has all of my contact information on it and is a practical way that’s very handy when we find ourselves in a public place where we might become separated.

  Don’t leave candles unattended: I know you’ve heard this a million times but think about where you’re setting them. Don’t put them on an end-table under your lampshade, near drapes or in the bathroom next to any towels. If you place them under cabinets on the kitchen counter occasionally, feel the cabinet where the column of heat rises and see how warm it gets. It gets pretty hot, right? That means this obviously isn’t the best place to set a lit candle.

Never grill on a condo balcony or under a porch where the smoke will follow the awning up into your home.

Never deep-fry a frozen turkey (or anything for that matter) and never do it INSIDE of your home. I don’t cook much so this was something I was happy to learn from others. Look it up on YouTube sometime and you will know exactly what I mean!

Never put water on a stove fire: Turn the burner off, move the pot off of the burner if you can, get a towel large enough to cover the pot, get it damp and gently toss it over to cover the entire pot if you can. This puts the fire out by taking away its oxygen and not cooling it below its fire point. Leave it there and call for help just in case to make sure the fire didn’t extend into the cabinets above. Take a look at this great clip to see how it’s done:

There you have it folks! Fire safety statistics, real life experiences of a fire fighter and safety precautions you can take to prevent and survive home fires! If this does not shake you enough to make you think twice about taking care of those dormant fire hazards within your surroundings I don’t know what will!

Another thing you can do if you live or work in a high rise is talk to your facilities or building management about        upgrading their fire fighting and life safety equipment. Find out if there is an evacuation plan for the building and have them post these evacuation plans on each floor and if that floor is too large and has more than one elevator or stairwell, then multiple plans need to be posted in each wing of that floor so everyone has easy visible access to them.

This still is not enough! Emergency plans, evacuation equipment, fire fighting and life safety equipment is only AS GOOD as the person USING the equipment is in knowing how to do so. You can’t do much with a fire extinguisher if you don’t know how to operate it the right way. You can’t use that first aid kit to administer emergency first aid for burn injuries if you have no idea how to do so. You don’t know how long it will take you and your family to get out of the 8th floor of a burning building if you’ve never tried to do so when the building is still in one piece. What you CAN do is take the first step by learning how to prepare yourself for potential fire hazards by  participating in life-saving emergency trainings!

Having your apartment or office inside a high rise surveyed by an Insurance Agent is also not a bad idea, he can help you get the right property covered under the right policies.

A good facility manager will think of these issues pro-actively and involve its’ occupants in emergency planning, along    with preparedness, the same way a parent will keep vigilant over their children or a top manager will be safety-conscious over their employees. The reason there will always be someone on the lookout for others who are important to them, whether it’s a loved one, tenant or co-worker, is so that when time comes, everyone is ready to do what they should; fight the disaster, beat it and recover from it in one piece and as quickly as possible!

Stay Well – Stay SAFE!

N Khan

Founder | Chief Consultant


With Special Thanks to:

Ryan Alles


High Rise Escape Systems

Schuyler Street Fire – Did they do what they could?



Firefighter, Rescue & EMS Network Group News | LinkedIn.

I say, hell yeah, they did!

I just watched the video on the above link and was left speechless, not because this was an extraordinary fire (because I’ve have seen worse) but because Tim Fisher, the fantastic author of the video/news article and a WKTV Photojournalist, covered it so well. It is rare to get the thoughts behind the lens but this gentleman hit it home!

Going back to the last post on fire safety in high rises and reinstating what Ryan Alles said, not having a solid plan ‘B’ can have lethal consequences. Having a solid emergency plan and ensuring your family knows exactly what to do in case of a home fire CAN save lives – even when firefighters can’t!

Disasters Happen… Prepare NOW!

Stay Well – Stay SAFE!

N. Khan

Founder | Chief Consultant