International Health, Safety, and Risk Management for Faculty Leaders

Session outcomes

At the end of this session, you will:

  • Know your GEO contact
  • Understand UNM Policy 2710 and basics of travel insurance
  • Be able to register your program with GEO and support participants in completing health and safety materials and orientations
  • Create an emergency plan & set conditions for a safe program
  • Be prepared for a variety of health & safety scenarios

Meet your GEO Support Team

We are here for you, should you need any assistance planning, during, or after your program!

Hi everyone! I'm Annette Mares-Duran, the Faculty-Led International Program Coordinator in the Global Education Office. In this role, I collaborate with departments to develop group study abroad programs to destinations all over the world. Born and raised in New Mexico, I'm a passionate ambassador for international education in the state. I look forward to working with you to create international experiences for our UNM community.

Risk Management: Why do we need to plan?

When preparing to take a group abroad, it is important to think through possible risks, brainstorm plans, and have access to resources in order to do our best to keep participants safe and healthy​.

By understanding responsibilities and liabilities, we are more likely to be proactive rather than reactive .

Policy 2710 is the guiding principles for all UNM education abroad programs!

Policy 2710: Education Abroad Health and Safety in a Nutshell

  • Policy 2710 applies to all outbound international programs sponsored or organized by any department or student organization at UNM ​
  • All Program Leaders must attend GEO Health and Safety and Risk Management Training (You are doing that now!
  • Programs must be registered with GEO.
  • Programs must be approved in advance, in writing, by the applicable supervisor (chair, dean, director, etc.)
  • All participants must be registered in the program though GEO and complete health and safety materials prior to departure
  • Program Leaders and participants are required to purchase health and accident insurance at least at UNM-recommended coverage levels, including medical evacuation and repatriation of remains. (This will appear in the system after your proposal is accepted) ​
  • Follow Clery Act Compliance (10.2)
  • Follow Sexual Assault and Other Crimes (10.1) Reporting Obligations

*UNM will not offer or support programs whose dates & destinations are or become subject to an elevated travel alert by the U.S Department of State or CDC. UNM has a Health & Safety Advisory Committee (Section 3)​. This committee reviews travel to these locations.

Registering your Program with GEO

Program Leaders must register international programs by completing the Proposal or Exemption online through GEO. It is recommended that this process is started 12 months before departure and completed at least one month prior to departure​. See the Program Leader Timeline for proposal process and support (LINK).

Be sure to communicate any changes in the dates or itinerary of your program to GEO in a timely manner​.

Voting Faculty Members are encouraged to apply for funding from the Office of the Provost Study Abroad Allocations Committee (Due in October)​.

Participant Health & Safety Materials + Optional Application

All traveling participants must be registered with GEO prior to departure (this includes ALL humans traveling even if they are not students). We can track this for you and/or you can track yourself if you prefer. You will have access to the system before, during, and after travel.

Below are the Health and Safety Materials required for all participants in the program:

  1. Register in Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) through the U.S DOS
  2. Purchase CISI International Health Insurance (~$11.50 per week)
  3. Upload a copy of their Passport
  4. Upload their flight Itinerary​
  5. Pay the $50 Health and Safety Fee​
  6. List Emergency Contact Information ​
  7. Digitally sign UNM Participant Code of Conduct, Risk and Release, and Photo Release forms​
  8. Visit SHAC for a Travel Health Consultation, then digitally sign the form
  9. Complete program Specific Forms or payment instructions (If you choose to add any)​
  10. Complete the GEO Health and Safety Orientation and Assessment

OPTIONAL: The process can be streamlined by using the system for the entire application process, payment collection, collecting any additional documents from students, adding signature documents, etc.

*As students begin to apply, encourage them to seek funding through the Regents’ International Study Grant and other scholarships​.

Participant Orientations and Setting Expectations

Students (and all other program participants) must participate in a student health & safety pre-departure orientation provided by GEO. ​ There are also several optional orientations provided by GEO. Finally, GEO recommends program leaders customize orientations for their location and participants.

1.GEO Pre-Departure Health and Safety (Required): A self-paced Health and Safety Pre-departure Orientation is included in the participant health and safety registration. It is a broad overview or GEO expectations and requirements to help ensure a safe and successful trip. Once the participant has reviewed the material, they will take a short quiz. You can see the orientation by clicking here. We offer this orientation in person and via zoom. If you would like a small group orientation, please let GEO know.

2. Setting Expectations and Country-Specific Orientation Led by Program Leaders (Recommended): We recommend that program leaders offer a country specific orientation before departure to discuss information relevant to the country and to set clear expectations of participants. Similar to having academic expectations, it’s important to set standards and expectations early. We recommend including this information in pre-departure orientation, in the syllabus for your course, and in group discussions. Where appropriate, allow participant input.

Examples of setting clear expectations include:

  • If going out after dark, please go out in at least pairs​. A buddy system is recommended.
  • Over the weekend, if departing XXXX, please let us know your destination/plans. This can be sent via WhatsApp. We want to be able to help if we need to. XXX co-leader and I plan to be in XXX so we are available, should you need us. ​
  • Please be back in your housing by “X:XX. PM”. (As program leaders you may not be able check this and are not expected to, but you have provided the expectation to the participants.​)
  • Reminder: Please have your CISI health insurance information with you at all times ​
  • XXX area is known for X. It’s best not walk in this area of the city after dark.​
  • Alcohol is usually involved with accidents, this is an academic program so please refrain from drinking in excess.

Also, be sure to state the consequences of failing to meet expectations clearly and carefully in orientation AND in the syllabus. Examples include:

  • If you are caught breaking the rules, you may be suspended from program.
  • If you miss x amount of outings, your grade will be lowered X each time.

3. GEO Pre-Departure Cultural Competency Orientation (Optional): Students can opt to take a self-paced orientation about Preparing for Cultural Differences. It is also available in the participant health and safety registration portal. Group leaders can select to make it required. You can view the material by clicking here.

4. Arrival/Onsite Orientation Led by Program Leader(s): Things to consider discussing with your group:

  • Emergency meeting locations away from accommodations
  • Exchange / verify contact information
  • Agree how to communicate in the event of emergency
  • Review cultural considerations, basic phrases in local language, and safety tips
  • Update itinerary or any changes
  • Ensure everyone has their Emergency Contact Card. GEO will provide each program leader with Emergency contact cards for their participants. Please provide these cards to students at the On-Site/Arrival Orientation. We have found that many participants carry all important information in their phone. If someone ends up in emergency situations without their phone, this can be a useful tool. Please review it with your participants and aid them with filling it out if needed. (See example below)
GEO Emergency Contact Card: Side 1 Includes emergency contact numbers and student emergency contact information. We encourage you to take time to have students fill in their card with their information and instruct them to carry their cards with them during the trip. It also contains the number for the US Department of State Citizen Services in the case of a lost passport.
GEO Emergency Contact Card: Side 2 includes important and potentially life saving information to be filled out by participants with your guidance. Write in local emergency numbers. ​It is most likely 112 or 911, but be sure to check ​ as it changes country to country. Write in how to contact you (Cell number WhatsApp, Etc.)​ and a local contact they can call if they cant get ahold of you. 

Although participants are of legal age, you and UNM are responsible for participants on this program, and the responsibility does not end at the end of the day or over the weekend. ​Each program leader has a different threshold for risk. In addition, each location poses different risk. Therefore, consider what ground rules you want to set for your program. Programs with clear expectations, recommendations, and reminders have significantly less health and safety issues. This is not only our professional opinion based on our experience working with several UNM faculty members, but is also considered best practice in international education. ​​

Emergency Plans & Conditions for a Safe Program

You are responsible for ensuring a safe learning environment for program participants while abroad. There will always be inherent risk in leading a group. No single plan can address all contingencies that may arise and leaders cannot control every variable. However, if you are diligent in creating an Emergency Plan you prepare yourself and your participants to make the best decisions possible should an emergency arise. Be sure to share the plan with your participants and co-create it with them when possible. Here are some things do consider while creating your plan:

1. Research and recognize risks for the destination. Include your findings in the orientation. Plan to routinely discuss safety concerns before and during the travel. Invite participants to discuss any concerns they have. We recommend using the following to get a better understanding of the conditions of the country:

2. Enlist a second program leader​. This can be another faculty member, local facilitator, or responsible student. If something happens to you, someone else can lead the group.

3. Make sure you have access to student information like emergency contact information ​. Program leaders can access participant information in the TerraDotta System at anytime. In addition, GEO will provide program leaders with participant information on a USB. You are welcome to print and carry a hard copies. (Please return USBs after the program so we can clear them and use them again). If you print participant information, please be sure to shred it after the program.

4. Be available for adequate supervision and engagement. Offer daily reminders (in Person, through What’s App, printouts) ​ of days events, pertinent information such as what to bring, and where to meet.

5. Have an itinerary and an alternate itinerary. Select a meet up location ​in case the group gets separated. Make a back-up plan in case current plan falls through. Include a curfew in your itineraries. This will depend on your program and its location.

6. Ensure accident and injury readiness. Be sure to locate nearest medical facilities. If a participant is in the hospital, one leader must stay with the participant and the other can continue with the group.

7. Understand travel insurance basics (see below). GEO recommends Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) for most programs​. A self-enrollment link will appear in the system after the program proposal is approved or you can access it directly by clicking here. Most US insurances will NOT cover you abroad so it is important to purchase travel insurance. Once you are registered with the CISI insurance, you can search doctors on the CISI website or download the CISI App.

*Use the Code: "UNM" for special rates: $22.50: Up to two weeks; $11.25 Weekly after 2 weeks; **Optional: add a spouse and/or children. ***Other options are available for special circumstances or restricted destinations (e.g. Cuba)​. For Emergency: +1 312-935-1703 (collect calls accepted) or email medassist-usa@axa-assistance.us. Non-Emergency questions may be directed to CISI at 203-399-5130 (toll free 800-303-8120).​

This is not an all inclusive list. We encourage you to critically think through other items that may be relevant to you or your program.

We’re a team.

GEO is constantly monitoring the world, especially the locations where our students are. We monitor many sources for up to date information including the following:

  1. US State Department/ Center for Disease Control ​
  2. Travel Advisories​
  3. STEP Registration​
  4. CISI Insurance Briefings ​
  5. The News
  6. Local Contacts

Wellness Checks

If there is an emergency flagged in the region where you are, we will contact you by email or phone. Please have your contact information updated in your proposal​. Be sure to respond ASAP! If we can’t get ahold of you, we will start reaching out to the participants in the group​ or your Emergency Contact person.

While we try our best to make sure we are keeping an eye on global events, there may be some emergencies that are not flagged in local areas where you may be. If you are aware of an emergency in your area first, please contact us. We need to hear from you about the status of the group. ​

If you have emergency or issue, PLEASE reach out to GEO:

  1. Annette Mares-Duran – Faculty-Led Program Coordinator, (amares2@unm.edu)​ 505-277-4032 (day hours)
  2. GEO 24 Hour Emergency Phone: 505-277-4436 (4GEO) ​ ****These numbers are listed on the Orange Emergency Cards

GEO commits to assisting you with the following in case of an emergency:

  • Provide support to find care/resources
  • Assist coordination with the insurance so that you can concentrate on what is happening in country.
  • Offer advice and/or documentation
  • Develop an action plan customized with you
  • Communicate with campus and parents, when appropriate, to provide information about your situation

Scenario Planning

How would you handle the following situations?

Please think through the following scenarios. Below the photo you will find suggested solutions. However, many situations do not have one perfect answer. Therefore, we ask that you follow the link at the end of the section to let us know how you would handle the scenarios if they are different to the solution we provided.

1. A student on your program complains of serious stomach pain and nausea. They need medical attention.

If it's urgent, take them to the nearest hospital. If not, find a medical provider through the CISI Insurance app, website, or call them. Be sure you have CISI insurance information handy at all times. You have copies of insurance cards in the study abroad system and on the USB provided.

2. A student suffers from anxiety and panic attacks. New triggers surface while in country.

Ask the student if they are taking medication. If so, ask if they have stopped taking them for any reason. If a refill of medication is needed contact CISI insurance for support. Utilize SHAC Counseling services: http://shac.unm.edu/services/mental-health/index.html

3. You (faculty leader) are hospitalized

Use your CISI Insurance. If you need help with CISI, contact GEO. All programs are required to have second program leader. Before departure, make sure the secondary leader knows the itinerary and can continue with the group. Inform GEO.

4. Your group is traveling between program locations via bus when there is an accident. A majority of the students and one chaperone are injured.

Ensure you and students get emergency medical care as needed. Contact GEO's Emergency phone to help with logistics. You or GEO will contact CISI Insurance. Depending on the severity, contact emergency contacts. consider if the program can continue with remaining leader and students. Does the program need to end early? Do students need to come home? Work with GEO on return logistics as needed. Help students communicate effectively with their family and friends in order to mitigate panic.

5. One or many students are excessively drinking.

We recommend setting expectations before the program begins to remind participants that this is an academic program and excessive drinking is not appropriate. Some program leaders dismiss students from the program or lower a grade, while others give a warning. Be sure this is in line with the expectations you have provided to students.

6. The students went out together last night. This morning one student does not show up at your meeting point. The other participants say that the student was drinking and left late at night even after they tried to stop him.

Try contacting the student any way possible (phone, WhatsApp, Email, Social Media). See if any of the other participants have heard from the student. If you cannot get in contact with the student, reach out to GEO for collaboration. One leader should continue with the group, while the other leader problem solves the missing student. Usually leaders wait a few hours to see if they hear from the student. Usually they turn up. If not, reach out to local authorities and/or contact the emergency contact person.

7. You are in a country with minor political turmoil. Until now, there has been no major violence. However, you see more demonstrations and isolated violence; it feels like things are escalating. You start to feel uncomfortable staying in country.

Communicate with participants to see how they are feeling. If you are not comfortable staying in country, we can work with CISI Insurance to see about evacuation from the host country. This may be covered depending on the situation. If you as the leader choose to stay, participants should still have the option to return home. Use the situation as a learning experience. Instruct participants to stay away from the demonstrations. Advise participants about areas of the city to avoid. Help students communicate effectively with their family and friends in order to mitigate panic. 

8. You receive a call from the local police department regarding a student arrested.

Learn as much information as possible about the situation and take notes. Ask who are you talking to and ask for contact information. Ask about next steps. Advise the student to contact the U.S Embassy. If needed contact the U.S Embassy on the students behalf. Contact GEO for collaboration. Does the student need a translator? Do they need representation? Contact emergency contact if needed. Ask the student for permission before doing so.

9. You are abroad when the borders shut due to a flare in covid-19. None of the student are ill.

Work with local contacts to see about continued housing and logistics for a longer stay. Research information about the situation and be sure to know where medical facilities are located. Contact GEO for collaboration. Investigate if additional funds are available in the program account? Work with CISI and airline to reschedule flights as needed. Help students communicate effectively with their family and friends in order to mitigate panic.

Please share your suggested responses by clicking the button below. We will add the responses to the presentation to share with fellow program leaders. In addition if you have scenario ideas, situations you have maneuvers abroad, please let us know.

Additional Resources Available to You

Additional Resources and Workshops

  1. Program Leader Timeline
  2. Budget & Payments
Questions, Comments, Concerns? Reach out to Annette (amares2@unm.edu) or (flip@unm.edu)


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