A Thoughtful, Analytical Approach to NGO Security

Evacuation and Relocation Training

Several months ago I did evacuation, relocation and hibernation training with one of our offices. We were all very busy at the time and my planned eight-hour training day turned into three hours. I insisted we go ahead with the training despite my concern that everyone was too tired to learn anything of value.

It turns out I needn’t have worried. Last week we were forced to temporarily relocate a sub-office due to security issues. The relocation went very smoothly and staff were keen to point out that it ‘was just like the training’.

The method we used for the training is outlined below.

The team with thier creations


1. Index cards or construction paper

2. Flipchart paper – or any other type of paper you can use to cover several desks

3. Pens and markers

4. Note paper


1. Create cardboard representations of all your vehicles. They can be as simple as an index card with the vehicle details or as complex as the three-dimensional models shown in the photo below. The models in the photo are accurate down to the vehicle plate number and communication equipment on board.

2. Draw a large map that covers your operational area and potential relocation sites. The map will probably need to be large enough to cover several desk tops.

3. Prepare an equipment list outlining items needed at the relocation site and items staying behind.

4. Write each major piece of equipment on a separate small square of cardboard. Minor items can be grouped together i.e. “staff luggage - one load”.

5. Prepare a staff list that indicates who will relocate and who will stay behind. It is a good idea to brief staff on agency and individual responsibilities during evacuation/relocation a day or two before the exercise. They should also be encouraged to discuss the issue with their families.

6. Write the name of each staff member being relocated on a cardboard square.

cardboard vehicles and map

Exercise process:

1. You’ll start the exercise at your desired end state. Place the cardboard squares representing equipment and people and the vehicle models on the map at the relocation site. Divide everything into two piles: ‘essential’ and ‘nice to have’.

2. Working backward, load the equipment and staff pieces onto the vehicles. Record what equipment and which people go on which vehicle. Be realistic about how much your vehicles can carry. You’ll also need to record how long the unloading process will take.

3. Continue to work backward recording travel times, rendezvous points, rest stops etc for several alternative routes.

4. Repeat the process until all equipment and staff are back in their place of origin.

5. Using this reverse process will allow you to come up with realistic planning times, load lists, and staff lists for relocation based on your own unique situation.

Some questions to ask:

1. Have you allowed enough time for delays? Nothing ever goes perfectly to plan. Also, convoy travel is generally slower than that for an individual vehicle.

2. Will you need to make more than one trip to move all your equipment and staff? Is this going to be possible?

3. Have you allowed time for acquiring travel permission from the relevant authorities? Drafting Performa requests in advance will save time.

4. Will you be able to travel after dark? Will it be safe to do so?

Although training is important it is how it is applied in the field that matters. I'm happy to say that the team passed their real life test with flying colours.

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