As our conversation on National Campus Safety Awareness Month comes to a close, we look toward the very real threats that exist far beyond our campus communities—sometimes hundreds if not thousands of miles away.
Traveling and studying abroad provides students with experiences that can literally shape perspectives and influence developing minds. Unfortunately, these opportunities also pose a number of potential risks and challenges for schools planning such a trip.
School leadership and those responsible for all abroad learning opportunities should focus on both the risks that can be prevented and those that should be prepared for.
Preventable risks can be addressed through proper proactive planning and research. For instance, if your students are traveling to an area that’s known to have aggressive insect populations—such as mosquitoes—school officials can provide repellents or sprays that help address the issue.
In the grand scheme of managing risk, however, it’s the events that we can only prepare for—not prevent—that can be the most challenging, especially when time and distance become factors.
According to studies from the U.S. State Department, the most lethal risks to students studying abroad are:
- Highway travel: 33%
- Drowning: 27%
- Other accidents: 27%
- Boat, plane, train travel: 9%
- Vehicle accident-pedestrian: 3%
While high profile situations such as terrorist attacks and diseases can be cause for alarm, schools that take the necessary time to plan in advance, as suggested above, can avoid dangerous political climates and destinations that pose severe risks. The State Department also provides current alerts and warnings on these matters.
Schools should look to develop a risk management plan that focuses on the potential challenges and risks that travelers may encounter and the best way to respond to those issues, including proper evacuation procedures.
A big component of this effort should be focused on ensuring that your school’s crisis communication procedures are appropriately suited for the trip ahead. This includes laying out the framework for how trip leaders and chaperones should communicate with school leadership back on campus.
Your leadership team should also develop the necessary response procedures in case of a major incident, such as a catastrophic injury or death. This involves communication strategies for parents, news and media outlets and any other potential parties that should be notified.
To this point, schools looking to create or update their crisis response plan should ensure that all necessary parties are active and involved in this process. This planning can also include opportunities for students and parents to provide input and feedback.
It’s these proactive efforts and inclusive conversations that will help strengthen your school’s ability to respond to whatever situation may arise while members of your campus community are away.
Ultimately, it’s all about keeping your students, faculty and staff safe throughout the year, wherever they may be. The best way to reinforce this? Talk about it. Share it with your campus community. Make it your priority—because it is.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your own campus community, let us know. We’re eager to continue the conversation.
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