It’s a familiar challenge for colleges and universities sending students, faculty, and staff on off-campus trips: how to ensure travelers’ health and safety while minimizing security risks. Students study abroad or travel regionally for group events; faculty attend conferences or travel for research purposes. However, it is difficult to predict when crisis situations may arise. From natural disasters to violence and health outbreaks, the list of possible off-campus crisis situations can be overwhelming and fraught with communication disruptions and confusion as events unfold.
As a result, many higher-education institutions are updating their student and faculty travel protocols. This includes using technology to maintain real-time connections with travelers and provide them with emergency resources to be used in the moment of need. It is no longer enough to send travelers with a printout of emergency numbers and instructions. Managing today’s higher-ed travel risks requires ongoing communication. Here are three best practices.
1. Set risk-management expectations
Establishing clear expectations around travel risk is critical. Not every aspect of travel is controllable and travelers must be prepared to act quickly. Also, there are varying degrees of unrest and uncertainty in different regions of the world that require more due diligence and planning.
While many institutions hire external organizations to provide additional local security and health-related support services, it is key to inform students and faculty that they may need to execute emergency protocols abroad. Also, while purchasing health and travel insurance is helpful, it doesn’t remove all risks due to unforeseen circumstances.
To proactively address these issues, you need to communicate the desired set of actions that should be taken for possible emergency situations before the groups depart. This includes preparing travelers on how to check in with home university contacts and how to access the local emergency-resource contacts. Your university should ensure the emergency information is accessible 24/7 online and via mobile devices.
2. Modernize pre-departure orientations
Traveler health and safety is a common topic during pre-trip orientation sessions, but it is also important to include program- and location-specific information that speaks to regionalized nuances and risk factors. For example, students traveling to India may receive specialized advice on taking precautions to avoid pickpockets or staying safe when using public transportation. The majority of students will be using their electronic devices while traveling, so make all essential information available in digital formats and, if possible, with interactive capabilities.