How International SOS protects students and teachers beyond the classroom
An increasing number of international schools in Thailand are embracing the philosophy of outdoor education and experiential learning. School excursions and overseas expeditions provide rich experiences and vital preparation for life beyond academia As one International SOS education client put it; “we think the learning that takes place whilst kayaking down a river in Chiang Mai is as important as the study of Shakespeare”.
However, taking children and youngsters to unfamiliar environments presents a unique set of challenges and responsibilities for educators who must meet their legal and moral obligations to students, staff and parents. This is why more and more schools are turning to International SOS to help fulfill their Duty of Care agenda through robust medical, logistics and security support of a global reach.
In March 2018 International SOS invited 15 international schools and school trip organisers to its 24/7 Medical and security Assistance Centre in Bangkok for a Crisis Simulation Exercise. A simulation exercise is designed to give participants a hands-on crisis management experience that tests emergency preparedness in a medical or security scenario. In this interactive session educators were guided by International SOS resident medical and security experts Jaime Wong and Dr Asadang Dusadi-isariyavong, who on a daily basis assist clients with their medical and security challenges when travelling abroad.
“School trips are meant to be fun and educative experiences for students and teachers. Thorough preparation in the form of a travel medical and security risk assessment is the key to overall school trip success”, says Dr Asadang.
Participants were presented with two medical and security scenarios affecting a group of students engaged in an off-campus activity. The scenarios were drawn from real-life events managed by International SOS in recent years.
As events unfolded in unpredictable ways, participants were required to manage crisis communications, assign roles and responsibilities, and conduct information gathering and decision making. At the end of the exercise the International SOS medical and security experts consulted with participants on what went well during the exercise and what needed improvement: “It is essential for schools to take steps to mitigate the risk of reasonably foreseeable dangers to their travelling students and staff. This includes equipping trip leaders with knowledge of the risk environment and risk mitigating measures needed in the locations that they are travelling to” says Jaime Wong.
SABAH EARTHQUAKE 2015
The experts presented a case study of the support International SOS delivered in the aftermath of the Sabah Earthquake in 2015. Within 84 hours International SOS helped a group of 18 students safely descend Mount Kinabalu and then repatriated them to Singapore. A further 5 students in a serious condition were evacuated via air ambulance arranged by the dedicated Incident Response Team established on the ground in Sabah and at the 24/7 Assistance Centre in Singapore.
“While it is impossible to avoid all risks, especially unpredictable incidents such as an earthquake or a terrorist attack, schools will inevitably be held accountable for their level of preparedness and speed in responding to an incident, which includes digital tracking and accounting for their students and staff ’s safety and wellbeing”, advises Jaime Wong.
DIGITAL REVOLUTION IN TRAVEL RISK MANAGEMENT
Educators attending the simulation exercise were introduced to the TravelTracker digital platform that ensures teachers or trip leaders on the ground are kept up-to date with the latest medical or security developments at their destination via email alerts. TravelTracker automatically transmits medical, travel security information and advice so users can anticipate problems,look after the safety of their group and minimise disruption to their trip.
In parallel, school management teams back on campus also receive proactive alerts from Travel Tracker with the latest medical and security incidents in countries where they have school trips. This information in turn can be used to update and inform parents. These emails provide information on the incident and show you how many trips you have already in or will arrive in the area.
Through 11,000 employees operating out of more than 90 countries, International SOS is the world’s leading medical and travel security assistance company. For more details on how International SOS supports schools and universities in Thailand please contact: [email protected]
CONSIDERATIONS FOR SAFE
• Risk assessments: What medical and security risks exist in your destination? How can these risks be mitigated?
• Crisis preparedness: Who will form an organisation’s crisis management team?
• Effective decision making: Who makes the decision? How are they made? What support is in place to make those decisions?
• Access to objective information: Perception vs reality; where will you obtain objective information to inform your decision making process?
• Continuous approach: Risk management is a continuous approach that needs buy-in and engagement from teachers, parents and students alike.