Answering the Call
Global Responders Group has emerged as a leading provider of integrated risk management solutions, its responsive, adaptive network of expertise able to satisfy any client’s Crisis Management and QHSE needs
Writer: Tom Wadlow
On April 20, 2010, the world was rocked by a catastrophic oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Deepwater Horizon accident, recognised as the largest marine oil spill in history, spread over 150,000 square kilometres of water and left a devastating trail of environmental and economic damage in its wake.
Although an extreme example, the incident highlights the value of robust, uncompromising standards in quality, health, safety and environment (QHSE) management. The spill cost BP billions overnight, with the damage still being counted to this day.
John Coates was an Emergency Manager with BP in Azerbaijan at the time, and saw the monumental impact the disaster had on the company’s fiscal and reputational standing.
Today, Coates heads up his own firm dealing exclusively in risk management, serving as Chief Officer of Global Responders Group (GRG), having founded the organisation in 2014.
“Why did I set this up?” he asks. “It was down to my experience with crisis management and QHSE contractors while I was working in oil and gas – I knew it could be done better. I knew my experience was perfectly suited to starting a consultancy that was based solely on experienced operators. This is what makes GRG different – our specialists are all required to have in-depth, hands-on experience, this is the only way to offer a client sound advice and service - that experience base which we founded the company on.
“Taking short-cuts, failing to adhere to regulations (if they exist) and being blasé about safety and security standards, not only places people at risk, it can kill them. QHSE standards are written for a reason – they set the baseline standard that industry and/or governments expect operations to adhere to. In addition to that baseline standard, we are helping proactive companies to incorporate human factors from a safety point into their safety management systems.
“What Deepwater Horizon showed is that you cannot afford to take safety for granted. Accidents hit reputations and brands, and reputations and brands hit the bottom line. Our job is to make our clients benefit from and appreciate this relationship.”
And this is where GRG comes in. Now firmly established in the crisis management and QHSE field, Coates admits he has had to ride on what he describes as a rocky road to this point, the oil price crash of late 2015 providing an acute challenge which forced GRG to diversify into new markets and activities.
Though painful, the company has emerged stronger as a result.
GRG now stands as an expert risk management partner for organisations engaged in a wide variety of commercial endeavours worldwide, from oil and gas operators and transport and logistics companies to industrial firms and office-based enterprises.
Headquartered in Texas and with bases in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific, GRG’s solutions are risk-based and specific to each client’s individual needs, a one-stop shop for all crisis management and QHSE consultancy.
New to the GRG Team, Brad Coulter has been brought in to expand the one-stop shop further still. Now serving as Security and Southeast Asia Manager, the opportunity to join forces with Coates was too good to refuse.
“I recently joined GRG because of the diversity of the work it undertakes, the expertise that is within the company and the areas for which it operates, globally,” he says. “It is one of the few organisations in the world where the diversity of my skills aligned perfectly.
“We can do everything from crisis and incident management, emergency response, technical services, detailed security services and training in all of the aforementioned. No two workdays are the same; the variety of skills our experts bring to each client is unsurpassed in the industry.”
Indeed, GRG’s services are categorised into five key areas: emergency response; crisis and incident management; manpower and resources; technical HSE support; and corporate services, with Coulter’s security division being the latest addition to the portfolio and the sixth service line. A key component across all six service lines is training clients’ staff on how to implement the plans and risk mitigations, closing the loop on the end to end service.
“The new service ranges from a bespoke kidnap and ransom support for a client’s employee in a remote part of the region, to providing a turnkey security department, fully equipped and manned, in another part of the region,” Coulter explains.
“In the form of a single contractor, GRG’s core focus is on providing end to end holistic and fit for purpose solutions,” adds Coates. “This solution-based approach shows our clients how to manage and reduce their risk.
“Whether for a project or an established operation, our clients can benefit substantially from access to the entire width and breadth of our staff and experience. Access to a large and versatile set of resources adds not only value to the services provided, but also fosters a continuing relationship that develops into a long-term partnership between parties.”
Beyond this, GRG is on-hand 24 hours a day to provide emergency response assistance as accidents and incidents unfold, providing peace of mind that help will always be on hand no matter when a problem arises.
Central to this capability? Its strategically placed offices – these are staffed by a formidable roster of deeply knowledgeable personnel and contractors who have real-life experience of working in hazardous operating environments.
“Within GRG resides an unparalleled depth of skill-sets that include significant experience in the management of highly specific hazard categories, which mainstream crisis management, emergency response and fire-fighting systems do not specifically address,” Coates adds.
“And critically, there is no cookie cutter approach, or one size fits all template that we adopt. We understand the nuances and requirements of different markets and countries and are able to adapt and even rewrite the rulebook in some cases.”
The result is that GRG’s approach to crisis and emergency response planning for a facility or business is holistic, the company able to incorporate all elements of an organisation into a QHSE strategy no matter where they are.
For example, GRG has been highly successful in Papua New Guinea building longstanding partnerships with PNG operators, while in Oman the firm is about to open a new office to be closer to the client base in the Sultanate and better service them – as opportunities and demand for services arise, GRG will respond with a bespoke, appropriate offering.
A versatile future
The company is also reacting to the societal needs of the communities that surround it.
Coates cites a number of ongoing corporate social responsibility initiatives, including the provision of fire training for crews in impoverished countries, which are almost exclusively volunteer-based, as well as supporting schools in Thailand where he is based.
This sort of activity is important for GRG, the company recognising a responsibility to give back to the community and society as it grows and develops.
And this is very much the ambition of Coates moving forwards – to grow in a way that allows the firm to remain agile and responsive to ever-changing environments, its versatility central to its viability as a business and ability to serve clients.
The coronavirus pandemic has only served to highlight the importance of being adaptive, the outbreak reaching almost all corners of the earth and disrupting every facet of economic and social life.
Business continuity planning will need to be updated following the COVID-19 outbreak with lessons learnt and a greater focus on business resilience, all the while prioritising staff welfare as well as customer well-being, possibly in remote delivery environs. GRG resilience includes being a largely virtual company with team members located remotely throughout the world can be adapted to any customer’s needs.
“If you had inadequate business continuity plans, resilience planning, risk management assessments and security plans and procedures, then COVID-19 made your organisation suffer,” says Coulter. “Even organisations that had pandemic plans, often the plans typically are designed to protect an organisation only for seven or a maximum of 30 days – proper holistic risk management and planning, which GRG provides, must have the resilience and flexibility to adapt to the crisis no matter how long it lasts.
“Coronavirus is like a war. It cannot be won or planned for, to deal with a crisis like this in a few days and move on. Being ready, planning your response and recovery are all essential in this time of crisis and these are things that GRG excels at, providing unrivalled broad-spectrum support to our clients.
“GRG offers that full spectrum end-to-end service. Our experts are able to plan, train and prepare your organisation for any eventuality, whether it is a fire, a terrorist attack, natural disaster or any other event – our knowhow is there to better prepare our clients and reduce the impact.”
As Coulter explains, while the challenges facing organisations may be sizeable, GRG is ready to help.The lessons learned along the rocky road that Coates described at the beginning stand it in good stead to adapt and deal with the COVID-19 fallout. GRG is more ready than ever to respond to the crisis management and QHSE needs of organisations the world over.