Every day, schools face the question of how to be best prepared for a student medical emergency. In addition to events at home, schools must also be prepared for unforeseen disasters or emergencies when students travel off campus. The March/April 2012 issue of Net Assets, published by NBOA, addresses risk management in general, and planning abroad in the article, Travel Safe: Crisis Planning for Overseas Programs.
According to the article, appropriate planning for international travel should include planning for potential technical, physical, and emotional crises. A list of suggestions, though not exhaustive, provides schools with a starting point when preparing for emergencies, and dealing with them when they strike. After conceiving a crisis plan, schools are also encouraged to gain an outside perspective from a lawyer and/or insurance representative to uncover any weaknesses in the plan.
“Travel Safe” recommends considering the following when traveling abroad:
1) Register with U.S. Embassy before leaving
2) Insurance: It is essential to have insurance, know the coverages and limitations, and how to access it.
3) Training: Leaders must know what is expected of them, how to respond, be prepared to administer first aid, and be capable of stabilizing a group.
4) Site/event analysis: Before traveling, be aware of the potential and most likely crisis events and cultural nuances, and be prepared for culture shock.
5) Health care: Your group should carry a full supply of prescription medications as well as an additional stock in the event that a crisis lengthens the travel time. Consider medications for asthma, diabetes, depression, etc., and know how to access care in the specific country.
6) Important documents: Access to important documents is recommended, including leaving copies of “individual health, emergency, and insurance information” at home, while also carrying a hard and electronic copy. The article suggests that such information could be kept on a smart phone, or thumb drive.
7) Emergency kit: Always carry your own emergency kit, including medical first aid and other items to assist your travel in that specific country. Items could include batteries, tools, emergency plan checklists, emergency contacts, etc.
8) Finances: Your group needs to have access to cash flow, as well as a variety of forms of access to money within the country.
9) Communication: Because regular communication may not always be available during a crisis, consider a satellite phone, and ways to access local phone systems.
This list is just a starting point for schools. If an emergency health situation does occur, the staff must be well prepared to react quickly and effectively and prevent a bad situation from becoming worse, so it is imperative that planning happen well in advance.
With an SMR, schools can make planning easier. An SMR ensures all the important information is stored securely online and can be accessed via a web-enabled device when students travel abroad. Schools also find value in managing medications via the SMR interface, and using it to prepare the appropriate medication inventory for traveling. In addition, communication capabilities are readily available during a non-emergency situation, as well as during a crisis. SMR provides the vital health information 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of if the student is at school, or on the other side of the world.