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EMC monitoring safety of employees in Egypt

People waited for flights in Cairo. Several companies have activated emergency plans to evacuate their employees. People waited for flights in Cairo. Several companies have activated emergency plans to evacuate their employees. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
By Hiawatha Bray
Globe Staff / February 5, 2011

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Officials at Hopkinton data storage equipment maker EMC Corp., which set up a Cairo office four years ago, said they are working to protect their employees caught in the political chaos in Egypt.

“All of our employees continue to be safe, and EMC’s Global Security Office is working with the local management team to ensure that all of our employees’ needs are being met,’’ said company spokeswoman Lesley Ogrodnick, who added that the company has two goals: “To ensure the safety and security of our employees, and that there is no business disruption of services to our customers.’’

Officials at EMC are following closely the demonstrations in the streets of Cairo, where mobs of protestors calling for the end of the regime of President Hosni Mubarak are clashing with the longtime leader’s supporters. For now, EMC has closed its sales, engineering, and services operations in a facility in New Cairo, near the center of Cairo itself.

EMC first established a sales office in Cairo in 2007, then significantly expanded its presence in 2009. The company won’t disclose how many employees it has in Egypt, but said its facility there provides customer service and technical support to buyers of its data storage and management products. EMC also has offices in China, Ireland, India, Israel, and Russia.

A number of Massachusetts companies do business in Egypt, but EMC is one of the few with sizable operations there. Egypt buys a significant amount of US military technology from defense contractor Raytheon Co., which is based in Waltham. A Raytheon division in Tewksbury has a $77 million contract to build transmitters for Egypt’s Navy, and is among 18 companies sharing a $3.2 billion contract to make 24 F-16 fighter jets.

Raytheon, which has offices in Egypt, declined to comment on the crisis. A host of US companies based in other states, including Procter & Gamble Co., General Electric Co., General Motors Co., and Caterpillar Inc., have significant operations in Egypt.

A number of those companies have activated emergency plans to evacuate their American employees. “Companies will contract with us . . . so when things happen, like Egypt, literally we’re a phone call away,’’ said Alex Puig, regional security director for the Americas for International SOS Assistance Inc., which is based in Philadelphia.

For 25 years, International SOS has helped extract people from countries wracked by natural disasters and political revolutions. “We put ourselves in harm’s way if necessary to help people who need to be taken out of harm’s way,’’ Puig said.

So far, the Egyptian crisis hasn’t been especially perilous, according to Puig. “I think probably one of the more dangerous ones was Lebanon in 2006,’’ he said. “We evacuated people while the Israelis were still conducting bombing runs on the road we were using.’’

By contrast, he said, getting Americans out of Egypt has simply involved rounding up shuttle buses and chartering airplanes. “It’s a logistical game, really,’’ said Puig. “As long as the airport stays open, you can get people out.’’

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at bray@globe.com.