Travel Risk Management & Crisis Response

Safety and Security for College Overseas Study

September 26th, 2016   Randy Haight

Many colleges and universities offer exceptional programs for students to travel, live and study abroad. While this is a marvelous opportunity, it does present some safety and security challenges for the student, their parents, and the sponsoring academic institution.

The risk for global travelers has never been so significant as they are now. Government and economic instability pose the risk of political threat and violence in many parts of the world. Students abroad are not immune to violent crime such as aggravated assault or robbery. Natural disasters can and do happen. Medical emergencies abroad present a challenge to both the patient and their families.

As an example, a student is studying abroad in an African nation and political violence breaks out as national elections draw near. Considerable violence erupts in the capital city, and most public institutions are closed. Curfews, checkpoints, and travel restrictions are imposed by local government forces. Violent clashes between rioters and government security forces are ongoing. How do you get your student to safety or evacuate them out of the country? Who will pay for it?

Is there a solution?

There are several ways that colleges, universities, and individuals can mitigate the risk and exposure to students while traveling. The traditional solutions, until now, have been to purchase some sort of travel insurance or to register with (and pay for) a company for access to its services. Let’s examine these closely.

Travel insurance is like any other insurance. When you purchase insurance, you are covered for certain identified ‘risks’. Like any other insurance policy, you must shop for the plan that best fits your needs. Not all plans cover all travel risks. Similarly, many of these plans have certain triggers that must occur before the policy will take effect. For instance, should there be a significant political threat in the country where you are traveling, most policies require that an emergency evacuation order be given by the policy holder’s government before the policy can be in effect. Also, like all insurance policies, the policyholder must file a ‘claim’ and wait for reimbursement.

Service companies allow their clients to pay a fee that permits access to the company’s travel portal and obtain information about the country and region where they are traveling, and most provide some sort of travel alert. These companies usually offer a 24-hour emergency telephone number for clients to call in the case of an emergency.

Should the traveler need emergency assistance, the company allows ‘access’ to its global service providers. In other words, they will identify a resource in the area, which you can retain at your expense.

There is another solution. How would you feel about a travel assistance membership program that offers a travel risk solution to the traveler for a flat fee? This fee is based on the number of days traveling and the country or countries being visited.

Coverage includes nine (9) enumerated travel risks: Blackmail, Disappearance, Extortion, Hijack, Kidnapping, Natural Disaster, Terrorist Events, Violent Crime and Wrongful Detention. Additional coverage can be obtained which offers full medical evacuation and repatriation for those travelers who have been hospitalized in a foreign country.

There are no barriers to coverage or trigger events as with most insurance plans. Additionally, there are no additional fees for service or response. Just one flat membership fee paid before the trip commences. Moreover, the provider, not the member, pays all costs related to any response.

Students are back in school and planning their fall or spring travel. Consider your alternatives and choose wisely.