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Study Abroad Risk Management

Emergency Response Plan for Faculty-led Programs

Study abroad involves a unique set of risks and responsibilities for both participants and program directors. These guidelines describe how program directors can best protect their students from harm and themselves from litigation. This section is devoted to procedures for handling crisis situations abroad. Please note that these procedures for handling crises are not optional. They are to be followed exactly by ALL program directors or faculty in the situations described. Please print this page to take on your trip, keep it accessible during your study abroad program.

Prior to Departure

CGE staff will provide program directors with the following information for each participant:

  • Copies of the passport identification page
  • Emergency contact information
  • Medical information (if provided by participant)
  • International Health Insurance card

Program directors will provide CGE staff with the following information for each program director or faculty participating:

  • Contact information while overseas
  • Emergency contact information

The critical incident team may include:

  • President
  • Director of Center for Global Engagement
  • Vice-President of Executive Affairs
  • Vice-President of Academic Affairs
  • Director of Public Safety
  • Dean of School which houses the study abroad program
  • Dean of Students
  • Director of Student Counseling and Development
  • University Relations
  • Country Expert
What is a reportable incident?

Reportable incidents are any crimes or incidents reported by a student that involved bodily harm or the threat of bodily harm, or any racially motivated verbal/physical harassment. It is ALWAYS critical to document when the crime or incident occurred, when it was reported, and what response protocol was used by program staff. ALL incidents must be reported using the study abroad incident report form. A copy of this form should be sent to the Center for Global Engagement.

When do I need to contact the Center for Global Engagement staff?

The program director should keep the CGE staff up-to-date with any incidents that occur overseas in a timely manner. If a critical incident occurs, CGE staff should be contacted immediately via the 24-hour on-call Director 706-867-2858.

What is considered a critical incident?

A Critical Incident is defined as a traumatic event, or the threat of such which causes extreme stress, fear include but is not limited to:

  • Student arrest
  • Student is the victim of a crime
  • Reporting of missing student
  • Acute illness (physical or mental)
  • Student hospitalization, emergency medical evacuation, or death
  • Drug and Alcohol abuse
  • Sexual assault, student assault
  • Student suicide attempt
  • Natural disaster, fire, explosion, bomb threat
  • Civil disorder, act of terrorism

Critical Incident Response

The program director or faculty member who has traveled with the group is responsible for an immediate and appropriate response to any incident occurring in a study abroad program. The general rule in all crisis situations is to remain calm and act as would a responsible person under the circumstances. Remember to document all your actions. Remember that all information related to a student or incident should be kept confidential.

The program director will contact the CGE Staff, at the first available opportunity, to report that a critical incident has occurred. When necessary the CGE Director will escalate the response by contacting senior University staff as and arrange a critical incident team to respond to all ramifications of the incident.

Step by Step Responses to Critical Incidents

1. Medical Emergencies

Before departure it is important to identify the closest hospital/clinics to the location of your program; as well as to learn about the general attitudes toward health care in the host culture. i.e. do doctors hesitate to use potent drugs and take a wait-and-see approach or do they aggressively treat problems? This information should also be provided to students during pre-departure orientation.

In cases of serious medical situations, you should do the following:

  • Take the person to a hospital/clinic, verify the nature of the emergency with a doctor, inform health care personnel about chronic medical conditions, and assist with medical insurance paperwork;
  • Obtain the medical help indicated;
  • Contact CGE staff with nature of the medical emergency, and keep in regular contact until the emergency has passed;
  • Have the student call emergency contact. If the student is not able to communicate, the program director will call the emergency contact and, if possible, obtain the student’s permission prior to the call.
  • Remember, you are not the student’s legal guardian, but you should try your best to get medical attention for her/him;
  • Document all your actions and submit a completed study abroad incident report to the CGE

2. Natural Disasters and Group Accidents

In the case of earthquake, flood, avalanche, epidemic, bus crash etc., do the following:

  • See to the safety of all group members;
  • Communicate immediately with CGE staff as to the safety and state of health of all group members, the group’s location, plans, and when you will contact the CGE again;
  • Communicate the same information to the nearest American Embassy or Consulate. Diplomatic channels are an alternative way to get information to the CGE staff if public communication systems fail;
  • Consult with American Embassy/Consulate, local police, local sponsors, etc. for advice on how to respond to the situation;
  • Discuss plans with group members. This may include change of location, change in program schedule, cancellation of the program, or a shift in emphasis in the program;
  • Some students may decide to return home immediately. Of course, this is their prerogative and you should assist in making arrangements;
  • Keep in touch with the CGE staff
  • Document all your actions and submit a completed study abroad incident report to the CGE

3. Civil Disturbance or Act of Terrorism

It is important before departure to be aware of situations and locations which can be potentially dangerous. Inform students and advise them to avoid such areas whenever possible. Discourage or forbid, if necessary, attendance at particularly sensitive political meetings, rallies, or other sizable gatherings.

  • Keep the American Embassy notified of your location at all times if you suspect problems are likely to erupt. Make sure you fully understand evacuation procedures to be followed in case it becomes necessary;
  • Keep CGE staff informed of developments and follow instructions issued by the United States Embassy;
  • Contact CGE staff as soon as possible in the event of a coup, assassination, riot, revolution, etc. so parents who call may be fully informed.
  • Document all your actions and submit a completed study abroad incident report to the CGE

4. Missing Program Participant

  • Inquire with friends and associates of the missing participant about her or his whereabouts;
  • Notify the American Embassy, local police, and local sponsor(s) and give them your telephone number;
  • Notify CGE staff, and notify the student’s emergency contact. Be sure to provide CGE staff with as many details as possible regarding what happened and what is being done;
  • Check with authorities daily, and inform CGE staff of any new developments.
  • Document all your actions and submit a completed study abroad incident report to the CGE

5. Student Arrested

  • Call local law enforcement agency;
  • Visit student in jail and determine what happened;
  • Notify CGE staff;
  • Have the student call emergency contact. If the student is not able to communicate, the program director will call the emergency contact and, if possible, obtain the student’s permission prior to the call;
  • Report situation to American Embassy or Consulate;
  • Assist student in obtaining funds for bail if possible;
  • Document all your actions and submit a completed study abroad incident report to the CGE

6. Robbery

  • Call local law enforcement agency;
  • Assist student in obtaining funds to replace stolen money;
  • Assist student in contacting US embassy/consulate to replace passport;
  • Notify CGE staff;
  • Have student call emergency contact;
  • Document all your actions and submit a completed study abroad incident report to the CGE

7. Assault

  • Go through medical emergencies protocol in section 1;
  • Call local law enforcement agency to report incident;
  • Document all your actions and submit a completed a study abroad incident report to the CGE

8. Rape

  • Go through medical emergencies protocol in section 1;
  • Call local law enforcement agency to report incident;
  • Help student find counseling. Keep in mind that in many cultures medical doctors often are the first point of contact for people struggling with emotional or psychological issues;
  • Help student (if requested or required) return home.
  • Document all your actions and submit a completed study abroad incident report to the CGE

9. Death of a Student or Faculty Member

If a student or faculty member dies while participating in the program, record all available facts accurately. The atmosphere surrounding the program will be emotionally charged, and it is very important that the tasks below are handled promptly and effectively.

Take the following steps if a student or faculty member dies:

  • If word comes by phone, obtain the identity of the person giving the information;
  • Determine the cause of death—if an illness, what illness; if an accident, what kind, where did it happen, who else was involved, etc.;
  • Find out time and place of death;
  • Get name and address of undertaker, if available;
  • Find out participant’s religion. If Catholic, check if last rites have been administered. If Jewish, contact a local Rabbi immediately. For those of other religions, wait until you have heard from the family as to their wishes;
  • If the participant died in an accident, inquire about the local laws regarding autopsy;
  • Find out if anyone has contacted the participant’s family;
  • Contact CGE staff regarding insurance coverage and procedures for repatriation of remains.

Reporting the Information:

  • Inform CGE staff immediately. CGE staff will then inform the participant’s family personally;
  • Notify the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Follow-up:

  • Continue to keep a chronological record of events and actions as they occur;
  • Talk to other student participants and keep them informed and counseled;
  • CGE staff will give the participant’s family as much support as possible;
  • CGE staff will send a letter of sympathy to the participant’s parents;
  • CGE staff will assist the program director in making arrangements for the repatriation of the body or remains;
  • Gather the participant’s belongings and make an inventory;
  • Ship the belongings and inventory to CGE staff, which will forward everything to the participant’s family.

Upon Return – After Action Review

It is very important for program directors to schedule an after action review with CGE staff upon their return to the US. This after action review is key to the continuous improvement of our processes and responses to crisis; as well as the continuation of our programs.

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