ANWB will be Holland's coordinating assistance company starting April 1st

15 March 2016

As you know there are five assistance companies active in NL: ANWB, AGA, Euro Cross, SOSi Amsterdam and VHD.  We consider each other competitors. On the operational side, however, we cooperate on a daily basis as we share many assistance cases (i.e. medical with A and vehicle with B, or health with C and travel with D). So operationally we consider each other “friendly” competition. Not so on the M&S part, though.

Holland is unique in many ways, also when we consider that we have a kind of duty roster to assist in large scale (= involving > 8 Dutch people in one incident abroad) disasters: Each one of the four large companies (all but VHD) is “on duty” for twelve consecutive months starting each year on April 1st (not a joke). This duty roster started in the 1990’ies after the airline crash of Martin Air in Faro airport. On that occasion all the Dutch assistance companies rushed to the site to assist its clients/members. This proved to be not very efficient. So we sat down and agreed to this scheme where only one assistance company acts on behalf of all the others and found a way to fund it equally by the affected assistance companies in each disaster.

Over the past years we had our share in a number of large scale tragic events. Just to mention a few: The Asian Tsunami, the airline crash of Air Afriqyiah in Tripoli, the airline crash of Surinam Airways (SLM) in Surinam, a gas explosion on a campground in Los Alfaques, an avalanche in Galtür, numerous bus accidents worldwide, earthquakes in Nepal and Haïti, numerous floods, etc.

Now it’s our turn again, starting on April 1st . ANWB will represent all health- and travel insurance companies of the Netherlands and their assistance companies after a large scale disaster involving Dutch nationals until April 1st 2017.

Being on “disaster duty” is a heavy responsibility. We must act proactively, fast and cleverly. If there is a disaster anywhere in the world that could involve Dutch nationals, everyone will be looking at us. Not just individuals, relatives of possibly affected travellers, but also the media, including social media nowadays. So it is essential that we show that we are in control from the first moment onwards. It is an excellent opportunity to show our capabilities and have lots of free publicity. If we don’t do it right from the very first moment, the opportunity may easily turn into a huge threat.

For that purpose we performed a drill, yesterday, faking an avalanche on Val Thorens, resulting in over 40 patients, 5 deceased and dozens of wrecked cars. The intention was to let all relevant staff assume their role as planned in our ‘disaster plan’.

We will/must rely heavily on our network, i.e. during the Tsunami we instantly installed a make shift key point – a bridge head if you will -  in the office of AAP (April) in Bangkok to coordinate our activities locally. Our network will provide essential information in the first phase of a disaster and actual assistance in a later stage. All parties involved may need to scale up very fast when the need arises.

Author/Source: Eric Grootmeijer-ANWB

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