Skip to Content

Mexico Earthquake - Natural Disaster Spurs Plan of Action

Carlo Bertorelli

By: Carlo Bertorelli October 05 2017

Tags: Logistics for Clinical Trials

Mexico City

Natural disaster spurs plan of action so that clinical supplies reach patients in the aftermath of the earthquake in Mexico City!

I read last week’s blog with interest – Are you prepared for a natural disaster? Today, I would like to tell you my own story, about another natural disaster…

On Tuesday, 19th September, I was travelling in a taxi with my Brazil facility General Manager Daniel Fernandes, when a powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.1 struck Mexico. It was centered southeast of Mexico City in the state of Puebla and caused heavy and prolonged shaking across central Mexico. Though the epicenter was about 100 miles from Mexico City, structures swayed violently, facades crumbled and buildings collapsed, sending people streaming into the streets in an effort to keep safe and alive. Residents of the capital stayed outside even after the shaking subsided, fearful of returning to unstable buildings. We were caught in the midst of this unexpected chaos! 

Once we had made our way to safety our thoughts turned to our staff at the Fisher Clinical Services Mexico site, to their families and to the patients that we serve. Fortunately, our taxi was able to continue the journey to our facility which is located approximately one-hour drive from Mexico City. We were able to verify that all employees were well, and unharmed, and that our facility appeared to be unaffected. We made the decision to close our facility to allow employees to tend to personal matters and to reconnect with their families and friends. Our plan was to be fully operational on Thursday, 21st September and to maintain a status quo in the meantime. 

As patients are our first priority, a plan of action ensued so that we could best meet the needs of patients’ schedules under these unexpected circumstances.

  • Delivery of supplies locally: We reviewed planned delivery schedules. All local investigational sites with pending shipments were alerted that we were holding shipments for now, but that we would seek to resume all deliveries as soon as possible. Additional measures were taken: 
    • Couriers were contacted – not all were operational. During this period of great uncertainty, it was found that small, locally based couriers, were able to meet the revised delivery schedule requisites. 
    • Project Managers and coordinators contacted investigational sites to verify if there were any inaccessible zones so that they could hold shipments if needed. 
    • Project Managers and coordinators pre-alerted investigational sites of new delivery timelines, also ensuring that they were fully operational before dispatching any shipments.
  • Importation of supplies: We alerted our global facilities to defer from sending any non-critical supplies to Mexico until air freight operators, airport operations teams and delivery vendors were fully operational post the earthquake. Once all external parties were confirmed up and running, business would resume as usual!

  • Communication:  Our global and local Project Management teams proactively communicated with all pharmaceutical and biotech clients who have clinical trials running in Mexico and surrounding countries. Regular updates were sent to all concerned parties by email, and teleconference calls were held to discuss individual client requirements. 

In addition, we conducted detailed reviews of our facility, the utilities, our stock of clinical materials for product integrity and quality standard checks, and the well-being of our staff and their families.  All parties to the supply chain collaborated together to ensure that there was minimum disruption to the delivery of critical supplies to clinical trial patients. We anticipate that patient dosing, although delayed, will not impact the success of the clinical trials in progress.

As Operations Director of the Fisher Clinical Services extensive network of cGMP facilities worldwide, travel is a fact of life for me. There are often times when I spend weeks visiting a particular region, traveling from one facility to another, making connections with our local teams, reviewing metrics and key performance indicators, discussing staffing requirements, facility upgrades and new service offerings as we serve to support clinical research in the region. Of course all traveling, particularly to emerging and developing regions, can pose an element of risk. That is why we have a plan of action for the aftermath of an earthquake or other natural disasters. I just didn’t expect to be in-country when a natural disaster such as this occurred. I have been caught twice now, once here in Mexico and once a few years back in Japan; hopefully there will not be a third time. 

To find out more about Fisher Clinical Services Mexico, click here.


Carlo Bertorelli