International Evacuation Risks: Understanding your institution's coverage

“Tourists Must Leave Egypt By Feb. 20 or Face Attack: Militants.” This headline, as well as warnings for the Ukraine and Thailand, has disquieted travelers over the past few days.  Although there have been travel alerts issued for Egypt for some time (see State Department Egypt Travel Alert last updated 01/30/14), this latest headline was a result of a tweet from a known suicide bombing group (in English) with specific warnings against tourists. 

When it comes to international travel, we often focus on the risks of unstable or dangerous countries. However, no matter where in the world your institution has faculty, students or other types of travelers, security and safety concerns can arise at any time and in any location. 

This recent threat highlights the reality and volatility of evacuation situations. Although you may have a policy in place that addresses general international travel issues, it’s imperative to clearly understand how it responds in an evacuation situation. For example, does your evacuation benefit pay for the services or merely the necessary arrangements? Often, evacuations are not a guaranteed service or covered cost item, and the moment of a crisis is not the time to discover this.

While the urgency to understand your policy may be untimely as it relates to this imminent terrorist threat, there are a myriad of lessons to be learned from these situations and you should contemplate the following going forward:

  • What emergency evacuation plan do you have for members of your faculty, students, alumni, and non-related parties who may be traveling as part of an excursion, semester abroad, or sabbatical program?
  • What additional costs could the school face for services provided, but not covered, by an insurance policy or covered agreement of service with a third party?
  • What insurance policies do you have in place? Which policy is primary and what happens if that carrier is not notified first?
  • Do your travelers know who to contact and how to contact these providers in the event of an emergency or crisis?
  • Do you have the ability to centrally identify who your travelers are and how to contact them, especially as they may have cause to move from country to country? Often there are many departments that work with international travel programs (director of international studies, human resources, chaplains or philanthropic departments, director of the health center, dean of student affairs, risk manager, provost, bursar, etc.).  Do their respective traveler details, locations of trips, and contact information interface together so that your institution can make decisions in a uniform and consistent manner?
  • What do you say to a family member who calls to ask, “What are you doing to get them out?”
  • What events trigger a need for evacuation? This does not only include political unrest, but also natural disasters (flood, volcanic ash, earthquakes, or medical emergencies).
  • What if your evacuation service is fragmented (i.e. one provides help to the chaperones and another provides evacuation for the travel group)? What if they get separated, possibly leaving students behind without a chaperone? This would escalate your scary event to a reputational risk nightmare.

Before your institution faces a crisis, please contact RCM&D to learn more about the risk mitigation and policy reviews we offer to help navigate these complex policies and procedures. We have comprehensive solutions combining insurance risk transfer options with industry specific expertise to help you identify protocols, best practices, and other risk mitigation techniques and tools.