Imagine a scenario where a group of faculty and students are traveling. Pretty typical, right? Now imagine that destination unexpectedly becomes the epicenter of a 6.4 magnitude earthquake. Immediately, the you ask yourself: Do we have anyone there? Who are they? Are they ok? How can we quickly confirm the faculty and students’ safety? How can we provide support for those who need it? What will we tell their frantic families?

This is every administrator’s worst nightmare. On any given day, you likely have faculty that are halfway around the world facilitating research; student athletes traveling to sporting events in another state; or even a choir traveling across town for a concert. Regardless of the distance traveled, as an administrator you have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure their safety and security always–whether there is an incident or not.

Incidents can scale from something as simple as someone getting sick or having an allergic reaction to unexpected political unrest. Regardless, you need to be asking yourself, am I ready? Do I know where all the traveling students, faculty, and staff are right now? Do I have the systems in place to quickly communicate with my students and staff? Do they know who to reach out to for help?

Next page: Challenges higher-ed institutions face when it comes to travel-risk management

Higher-education institutions face unique challenges that make it difficult to effectively manage travel-risk management.

  • Higher-education institutions have a diverse traveler set. Researchers travel to distant or unstable parts of the world; educators and students embark on long-term study-abroad programs; coaches and student athletes travel on a weekly (or more) frequent basis, along with a host of gear; and campus clubs travel regionally, domestically, and internationally.
  • Travel details live in disparate, siloed, systems. Although travel policies exist, the reality is that many will chose to book their travel outside of these systems and never register their itinerary with the school. And even if the travel is registered, this typically doesn’t capture changes in itineraries and side trips beyond the original itinerary. This travel data resides in online booking tools, commercial travel-registration systems, homegrown registration systems, or even with the students’ parents if they decide to use their frequent-flyer miles to book their child’s trip.
  • Ownership resides across multiple departments: Campus Police, Provost, International programs, Travel, Finance, Legal, Insurance Providers, etc. And often, these departments aren’t on the same page as to who is doing what when it comes to responding to an incident.

Setting up a travel-risk-management strategy

No institution can protect its faculty, staff, and students with full certainty. However, with the right plans and technologies in place, you can greatly improve your ability to mitigate, locate, and communicate with faculty, staff, and students when the unforeseen happens. Here are three pillars to an effective travel-risk- management strategy that help to ensure the safety and well-being of faculty, staff, and students. Technology plays a critical role in each step.

1. Keep them in the know. Educate your travelers as much as possible about safety and security before they travel by sharing helpful tips and tricks for staying safe, no matter the distance traveled. They need to know your institution’s protocol for keeping them safe. Let them know what they can expect and what they need to do in the event of an emergency.

2. Embrace proven, connected technology to protect your people. You need to be able to pinpoint traveler locations during an incident, respond effectively, and, most important, quickly help those who need it. Using a tool that can both dynamically map locations and assess risk level in real time is essential.

3. Communicate in real time. Establish a multi-channel communications process that includes voice, email, and SMS to ensure direct communication with travelers before, during, and after an incident–despite their connectivity level. A system that alerts you when your messages are received and read will allow you to offer assistance in real time.

Travel is a daily occurrence at higher-education institutions around the globe. In today’s complex and unpredictable world, administrators cannot afford to ignore travel-risk management. It’s more important than ever to have the right policy, technology, and communications plans in place to protect your people, no matter where they are.

About the Author:

Guy La Corte is General Manager of Americas Distribution for SAP Concur. In this role, he is responsible for customer acquisition and distribution efforts for the company’s largest accounts in the U.S. and Canada.

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