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How to plan a large scale road movement of passengers

by Humanitarian Logistics Association | 2017-09-25 10:16:25 -0500

I need to move several hundred displaced people about 250 km, probably using hired buses. What should I take into account in planning the movement?

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by Humanitarian Logistics Association | 2017-09-25 10:19:15 -0500

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There are a large number of considerations depending on your precise circumstances. Except in a dire emergency when the movement has to be immediate for life-saving reason, good planning is essential and will save a lot of muddle, inconvenience and time wasting later. The follow is best practice and is drawn from considerable experience. Even then, everything will probably take longer than you think, so plan to start your travel day early. (It is not advisable to travel by road at night, even if it is cooler.)

How good are the buses available to hire? Check them over including spare tyres, and inspect the drivers’ licences and the passenger insurance documents.

Do the IDPs have a lot of luggage/domestic goods? Baggage is safer inside a truck than tossed onto the top of a bus, especially if it is wet or dusty. And you may find that it will not all fit underneath a high sided coach. So consider hiring some trucks to carry this. The IDP’s baggage may be all that they own and it must be treated with respect; you will need to brief the loaders carefully, or ask the IDPs themselves to assist in the loading, with the driver’s supervision and advice on safe loading/stacking within the truck. You will save time on the day if you load the baggage the night before and then park the trucks overnight in a safe place, but the baggage owners may be reluctant to agree to this. They will anyway need to keep aside what they will need on the journey, e.g. babies’ nappies. Baggage should be labelled with a name or reference number (you can write with a felt pen on strips of adhesive “masking tape” stuck to each item).

Do they have any livestock? You may need extra vehicles (trucks) for the smaller animals: goats, sheep and the like (on ropes and with labels). (Pigs are very messy and should be discouraged; if it is essential, place them in waterproof sacks tied around their heads with their noses sticking out so they can breath.) Chickens, duck and rabbits should be placed in labelled cardboard boxes, preferably on a different truck to the sheep and goats. Larger animals (cows, horses, camels) will probably need to be walked by a family member in an escorted group, then special provisions need to be made en route as it will take several days: food, water, safe overnight stopping places.

You may need to run more than one convoy. It takes a surprising amount of time to check people onto buses, and even more time to load baggage onto trucks. 300 passengers at a time is a good working figure. Also you do not want too long a convoy in terms of the total number of vehicles (which will depend on the size of your buses and the number of additional trucks) including escort vehicles: do not exceed 20 in total. If the roads are dusty the convoy will get spread out because of poor visibility.

You will need secure areas at each end for boarding and disembarking, especially if you have large quantities of luggage. It is best to allocate people to numbered buses and give them “boarding passes” in advance. You will probably need to prepare manifests (lists of names) especially if the IDPs are being moved into a camp and/or if there is to be follow-up assistance on arrival. Advise your passengers in advance of exactly what will happen on the travel day (e.g. reassurance about toilet breaks).

How good is the security? If there is a likelihood of ambush, hold-ups, etc., along the road, you will need to plan security measures. If your agency agrees to this, you may need armed escorts (local police/troops or international troops) in separate vehicles front and back, regular patrols along the road or even aerial surveillance. Ensure that you can communicate with your security escorts, by phone or radio, and check that they are fully charged in advance. You may have to insist that escorts drive at your selected speed and do not shoot off ahead, and it may even work.

What is the state of the road? If the road is very bad, you especially need to ensure that your buses are in good condition and preferably add one additional as a spare in case of breakdown. Also carry some heavy duty towing cables so that if you are operating in mud one of the trucks can tow out a stuck vehicle.

Even on a very good and clear road (such as a motorway) you should not exceed 80 k/hr or 50 mph with a convoy of this size carrying vulnerable individuals. On worse roads or if there is heavy vehicle or pedestrian traffic, or roadside activities, it should be a lot slower.

You should therefore plan at least one toilet break en route at a safe place, either where there are formal facilities available or in a secluded rural area, such as woodland or bush (segregate men and women on opposite sides of the road but assist them in crossing the road safely). Allow one stop every two hours.

You should provide some food for the journey, at least to children, pregnant and lactating women and other vulnerable passengers such very elderly people: at least high protein biscuits/bars. If the journey is likely to be slow, you should provide food for everyone

Water should be provided on each passenger vehicle, either in individual bottles or a large container and shared cups.

There should be an escort vehicle from your agency both front and back of the convoy with logistics staff, in addition to any other agency staff and their vehicles. I prefer to put the designated Convoy Leader in the rear vehicle, especially on bad roads, unless there is extreme insecurity when the Leader will be at the front. The Deputy Convoy Leader then goes at the opposite end, and they should be in touch by mobile phone or radio throughout.

You should provide some travelling medical escorts: either a paramedic on each vehicle or (preferably) an escorting vehicle/ambulance with a doctor and medical supplies. Inform yourself of the nearest medical clinics and hospitals along or near your route. If there is a medical emergency, that bus should stop while the problem is diagnosed and treated, or while the patient is transferred to an ambulance. It is therefore good to have a third agency vehicle available to wait with bus carrying the patient, if you do not have a separate medical vehicle to which to transfer the patient.

If there is likely to be a need to negotiate at checkpoints, an escort from the local authorities is recommended.

You will need to have a briefing with all the drivers and insist that there is NO overtaking except in case of breakdown or medical emergency. To keep the convoy together, all vehicles should take their speed from the vehicle BEHIND them.

Formate the convoy as follows before you drive off; this list covers all possibilities, you may not have all these vehicles in your convoy:

  1. Military escort

  2. Authorities’ vehicle

  3. Agency vehicle with Deputy Convoy Leader

  4. Buses (6-10)

  5. Medical escort vehicle

  6. Baggage trucks (perhaps 4-5)

  7. Animal trucks (1-2)

  8. Any additional agency vehicle

  9. Agency vehicle with Convoy Leader

  10. Military escort

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Asked: 2017-09-25 10:16:25 -0500

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Last updated: Sep 25