Helping your company ‘Walk the Walk’ in response readiness

As a management consulting firm, Meridian assists our clients’ compliance with safety, environmental and quality management system standards. For example, we recently conducted an external review to verify that an organization’s internal quality system is based on ISO 9001:2015. Similarly, in enhancing our clients’ contingency preparedness, our Response Services Division provides Incident Command System (ICS) training and facilitates drills and exercises.  

In “Walking the Walk,” Meridian uses ISO 9001 and ICS processes and tools in managing our tactical operations.  Potential tactical operations, which Meridian may be asked to provide, include:

  • Armed Vessel Security
  • Direct Asset Response Team
  • Event Management
  • Executive Protection
  • Fixed Site Security
  • Oil / Hazardous Material Spill Response
  • Route/Convoy Security

The ISO-ICS integrated process starts with Meridian’s standard operating procedures and policies, which creates our framework. From there, Meridian has ensured its personnel have the required training and experience for the position they are assigned to. This includes becoming familiar with the Meridian Incident Management Handbook (MIMH), as well as completing our position-specific qualification requirements.

There are numerous moving parts when it comes to managing tactical operations. There is a constant flow of information. To ensure our readiness to respond, Meridian proactively developed Incident Action Plan (IAP) templates for various types of tactical operations. These templates incorporate lessons learned and best practices.  They serve as a 70% solution, which enables Meridian to respond to the needs of a client quickly and effectively.

From the moment a client requests our services, Meridian begins updating the appropriate template with the client’s specific information.  We assess and track the current situation.  We document the client’s objectives and priorities.  We identify resources and develop assignments.

By using ICS processes and tools, Meridian can make a seamless transition from managing routine activities to supporting crisis management while  easily assimilating into the client’s response management organization.

By having things well-organized and documented, it ensures continuity of operation.  Meridian upper management can quickly step in and effectively and efficiently complete the operation if an emergency arises and the project manager is unavailable.

Once an operation is complete, Meridian electronically archives the IAPs, so they can be referenced at a later point in time if needed. We update our IAP template.  This procedure is not only ISO compliant, but it also allows us to reference the documents as needed.  

Meridian Operational Planning Cycle for Managing Tactical Operations

 

The Importance of ISO accreditation and Quality Management Systems

As an ISO-accredited and ICS-based organization, Meridian takes great pride in providing scalable, cost-effective solutions for our clients.

Using these rigorous systems, Meridian is able to set the standard for accountability in five ways:

Quality Assurance

Because Meridian has taken the time and effort to undergo the process of complying with ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 28007:2015 standards, our clients are confident that we will meet their high expectations even before our first day on the job.    

Quick and Accurate Decision Making

When minutes matter, our clients don’t have hours to respond. Having high quality management systems in place means Meridian will be able to make high quality decisions quickly and accurately.

High Efficiency

Because Meridian has these processes in place, every member of our leadership team knows how to step in and take action. A certified ISO 9001 quality management system ensures there are clear processes and communication structures in place throughout our entire organization.

Culture of Continual Improvement

One of the central tenets of ISO is fostering a culture of continual improvement. Simply put, we are not satisfied with the status quo and are constantly seeking ways to further expand our capabilities and hone our existing skill sets.

Ability to Partner with Other Organizations

Because ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 28007:2015 standards are universally accepted and respected, they provide a high measure of continuity and compatibility with other organizations and companies. Additionally, our strategic use of the Incident Command System (ICS) tools and processes enables us to provide integrated services that optimally support our clients’ contingency preparedness and response management.

As we roll out additional products and services, we look forward to assisting your organization’s effort to promote safety, security, and environmental stewardship.

Meridian Celebrates Cyber Security Awareness Month

Since 2003, October has been recognized as National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM). This collaboration between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Cyber Security Alliance started this initiative to ensure the safety and security for individuals or companies during their online experiences.  

There are various types of cyber threats that result in daily occurrences. The Government Accountability Offices (GAO) mentions these threats consist of Bot-network operators, criminal groups, foreign intelligence services, hackers, insiders, phishers, spammers, spyware/malware authors, and terrorists. These threats do not just threaten the U.S. Federal Government and Critical Infrastructure, but also small businesses or individuals.  Everyone is at risk. A successful cyber-attack could have severe impacts emotionally, economically, and environmentally.

Meridian’s Cyber Security Approach identifies threats & vulnerabilities, assesses risk exposure, develops protection & detection measures, establishes contingency plans, and responds and recovers from cyber security incidents. Meridian has multi-skilled specialists that can deliver Cyber Security services that includes:

  • Cyber Security Policies
  • Cyber Security Management Plans
  • Cyber Security Procedures
  • Cyber Risk Assessments
  • Office Contingency Plans
  • Vessel Contingency Plans
  • Cyber Security Training & Awareness

10 Basic Cybersecurity Measures (Water ISAC)

  1. Maintain an Accurate Inventory of Control System Devices and Eliminate Any Exposure of this Equipment to External Networks
  2. Implement Network Segmentation and Apply Firewalls
  3. Use Secure Remote Access Methods
  4. Establish Role-Based Access Controls and Implement System Logging
  5. Use Only Strong Passwords, Change Default Passwords, and Consider Other Access Controls
  6. Maintain Awareness of Vulnerabilities and Implement Necessary Patches and Updates
  7. Develop and Enforce Policies on Mobile Devices
  8. Implement an Employee Cybersecurity Training Program
  9. Involve Executives in Cybersecurity
  10. Implement Measures for Detecting Compromises and Develop a Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan

 

Meridian.US Announces New Designated Person Services

Regulations, including International Safety Management Code and Towing Safety Management System, require a vessel operator to appoint Designated Person(s) that have the following responsibilities:
  • Ensuring the safety management system is implemented and continuously functions throughout management and the fleet.
  • Ensuring the safe operation of each vessel.
  • Providing a link between the Company and those on board.
  • Monitoring the safety and pollution-prevention aspects of the operation of each vessel and ensuring that adequate resources and shore-based support are applied, as required.
For companies looking for highly experienced contractors to supplement their staff, Meridian.us has senior-level personnel who can serve effectively as Designated Person(s).
For more information on Meridian’s Designated Person services, please contact Captain Hung Nguyen at (808) 282-4981 or hnguyen@meridian.us.

ISM Code and Risk Management

December 2012 – Grounding of MODU KULLUK in Alaska (courtesy of nytimes.com)

On December 31, 2012, the Noble Drilling-operated Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU) KULLUK went aground on the eastern coast of Sitkalidak Island, Alaska. Amid winds as high as 50 miles per hour and seas as high as 18 feet, 18-member crew had to be rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). The USCG and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the casualty. The USCG determined the most significant factor being the inadequate assessment and management of risks associated with a complex vessel movement during the winter in the unique and challenging operating environment of Alaska. The NTSB concurred with the USCG that the inadequate assessment of the risk for the planned tow resulted in implementation of a tow plan insufficient to mitigate that risk.

August 2016 – Grounding of TRANSOCEAN WINNER in western Scotland
(courtesy of bbc.com)

Almost four years later, we saw similar images of Coast Guard helicopter flying over the TRANSOCEAN WINNER, which was grounded in western Scotland. The casualty released approximately 12,000 gallons of diesel oil into the ocean. The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) investigation into the grounding highlighted the lack of a contingency plan.

Both vessel operators are required to comply with the International Safety Management (ISM) Code. Section 1.2.2.2 requires a company to assess all identified risks to its ships, personnel and the environment and establish appropriate safeguards. Inadequate assessment and management of risks would be considered a Major Non-conformity under the Code. Per Section 13.5, this may result in the issuing government’s withdrawal of the company’s Document of Compliance, i.e., its ISM-compliant vessels can no longer operate until the identified discrepancies are corrected.

Meridian.us has certified and experienced ISM Code Lead Auditors, who can assist your company with their internal audits and management review. For additional information, please contact Captain Hung Nguyen at (808) 282-4981 or hnguyen@meridian.us.

Hurricane Irma Preparation

Hurricane Irma is now a Category 5, which has sustained wind speeds greater than 136 knots (157 mph; 252 km/h).  The latest storm track reveals that it is forecast to reach the Straits of Florida by 1am CDT on Sunday (September 10).  The National Hurricane Center has told Americans along hurricane-prone parts of the coast to get an evacuation plan in place.

In developing an evacuation plan, the following should be considered:

  • How are you getting to the evacuation hotel?
  • Do they accept pets?
  • Who else can reach you in case your cell phone dies?
  • How are you going to pay for expenses?
  • What are you going to take with you?
  • How will you secure your home?
  •  Without power, you are going to be consuming more water, therefore, it is recommended to have 100 ounces of clean water per person per day with regards to planning.
  •  Non-perishable food is the best to purchase
  • Once the power goes out, a freezer can last 72-96 hours if it is not opened before the food spoils.  Once it is opened, eat or dispose of everything in it in a timely manner.

For port users, please check with your local Coast Guard Captain of the Port (COTP) for status of Port Condition (PORTCON).  For example, COTP Key West has ordered PORTCON WHISKEY to be set at 8:00 PM, September 5 for the COTP Zone Key West, FL.  Some actions, which waterfront facilities, should take include:

  • Remove all debris and secure potential flying hazards.
  • Take due diligence to prepare for potential storm impacts.

Meridian can also provide Incident Management Support and Direct Asset Response Teams:

 

  • Incident Commanders
  • Incident Command System Specialists
  • Staging Area Management

 

Meridian.us can rapidly deploy highly-trained, disciplined, self-sustaining, multi-faceted, and dedicated unit of private security specialists for security, medical and or recovery services.

Meridian.us can assist with hurricane preparation, response and recovery.  For more information, please contact Jason Wilbur at (337) 515-5833 or jwilbur@meridian.us.

Is Your Company Doing Enough to Deter Pirates in High Risk Waters?

Earlier this month a court in Mumbai, India, sentenced a group of 15 pirates to 6 months in prison, plus time served.

In January 2011 25 Somali nationals attempted to board a merchant ship 1,400 nautical miles off the coast of their nation. The crew of the ship sent an emergency distress signal to the Indian Navy and Coast Guard, which responded quickly. The ensuing firefight killed 10 of the 25 pirates. The remaining 15 have been incarcerated in India for the last six-and-a-half years.

“The offenders have been given a lesson that in India there is rule of law and that the offenders are brought to justice,” said special public prosecutor Ranjeet Sangle. “From 2011, since the pirates were arrested, the entire piracy operation in the western waters of India has come down . . .  now, I believe that it will go down to zero.”

Unfortunately for merchant ships, the prospect of seven years in prison isn’t much of a deterrent, especially given the large potential payoff pirates receive when they are successful. 

But the firefight, resulting capture, and eventual conviction of these pirates should send a very important message to those who sail through high risk waters (HRWs):

A trained and armed presence on or near your ship can protect you and your crew from dangerous pirates.

Over the last several years pirates in HRWs have kidnapped crew to hold them for ransom, stolen highly valuable cargo, and even ended the lives of those on board the ships they attack.

But since 2009 Meridian.us has guarded hundreds of voyages, and has successfully defended ships from pirate attacks and suspicious approaches—all without needing to fire a shot.

If your shipping company is ready to take the security of its crew and cargo to the next level, we’re here to help.

Meridian is uniquely qualified to provide security, safety, and environmental services to the maritime community. For additional information, please contact us at (251) 345-6776 or info@meridian.us.

Are You in Danger of Being Doxxed?

Trolling online is one thing, but Doxing is something entirely worse.

Doxing when someone searches for and publishes private or identifying information about a particular individual on the Internet, typically with malicious intent.

Google yourself.  Put your first and last name in parenthesis then put the state.  What do you come up with?

There are hundreds of Databroker companies out there that survive off mining public databases, collecting that data and making it readily available at the touch of a button.  Doxing is becoming a common practice among populist and protesting movements.

Publishing your private information could open up you and your family to unprecedented dangers.

Business Executives, Public Figures, Public Officials are all to often become victim to their private information becoming public. A great deal of this information can be removed, though it isn’t easy. Depending on the state in which you are domiciled, you likely have the right to have your information taken down if requested. However, Databrokers don’t have to make it easy to navigate the process how.

Meridian can help. Meridian can remove your information from commonly searched sites and help to monitor it in the future. Please let us know if you are interested in this service.

For additional information, please contact us at (251) 345-6776 or info@meridian.us.

Meridian.us Honored as ‘Patriotic Employer’ by ESGR

Meridian’s Josh Simonson and Jonathan McConnell are presented with the Patriotic Employer Award.

Meridian honored for its support and hiring of National Guard and Reservists by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) organization.

MOBILE, Ala., JULY 12th, 2017 – Meridian.us, a Mobile-based Veteran-Owned Small Business was honored Wednesday by being recognized as a “Patriotic Employer” by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) organization.

Employers are nominated for the award by their employees in thanks for their support of the duties required of National Guardsmen and Reservists. Every member of the National Guard must drill one weekend a month as well as participate in a two week Annual Training.

For many Guardsmen and Reservists these requirements can be tough to negotiate with their employers.

But for Meridian, supporting veterans is part of the mission. Approximately 95 percent of Meridian employees are veterans, and many of them have either served or continue to serve in the National Guard or Reserves.

“It was an honor to be presented with this award today by ESGR,” said Meridian.us President Jonathan McConnell. “It is one of our top priorities to support the veterans, National Guardsmen, and Reservists who work with us by allowing them to continue to serve.”

ESGR, a Department of Defense program, was established in 1972 to promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers and to assist in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment. ESGR is supported by a network of more than 4,000 volunteers in 54 committees located across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam-CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

About Meridian.us

Meridian.us is a Certified Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB). Meridian provides professional, scalable, cost-effective solutions to clients’ safety, security, and environmental stewardship needs. Meridian finds solutions that match the level of risk to proportional protection, giving the client the most efficient and sustainable solutions anywhere in the world.

In response to the attack on the Maersk Alabama in 2009 Meridian.us was formed under the leadership of Jonathan McConnell to provide a cost-effective solution to combating piracy. Security teams, which consisted of US Marine Veterans, most of whom served with Jonathan, began serving onboard U.S. flagged vessels. Meridian was the first US-based, ISO 28007-certified maritime security firm. We proudly serve multiple Fortune 500 companies. To better serve our clients, our services have been expanded to include Incident Management Support, Corporate & Regulatory Consulting, Direct Asset Response Teams, Executive Protection, and Training.