Risk management involves to two overlapping concerns.
Most importantly, it involves the reduction of hazards and accidents that can cause serious personal injury. Secondly, it refers to the reduction of liability lawsuit exposure. Fortunately, 99% of risk management can be successfully addressed by exercising routine caution, applying common sense, and spending extra money when needed. As with other litigation involving colleges and universities, the key is whether the College and faculty (you) “acted reasonably and prudently” in the context of the situation at hand.
The risk management process starts with the recognition that the health and safety of every student and faculty participant supersedes all other concerns. It continues with the Agreement Governing Participation form which informs students about the need to obey foreign laws, to be cautious when traveling, to avoid risky behavior that might jeopardize their and the group’s welfare, get your approval of their independent travel plans, and the like. You should review this Agreement document with the participants at the beginning of the unit as soon as you get in country. Have an open discussion on how the actions of each person can affect the entire group. Discuss the impression of American women generated by B movies and soap operas. Talk about how women and men should dress and respond in various situations.
Risk management is reflected in the Student Information and Health Form which asks for data on the student’s medical insurance coverage that applies overseas and asks them to discuss special health circumstances with you. Urge students to complete it fully and honestly.
Risk management continues as you select host families, if any, and judge the suitability of the housing for female and male students. Individuals from the host site can best advise on this.
Road accidents are the greatest cause of death and serious injury for U.S. travelers abroad. If you drive, be extra cautious careful. Hiring a driver/bus combination reduces the risks and provides knowledge of local road conditions. Bates insurance allows students to drive abroad only if an emergency situation exists and no other qualified drivers, including the faculty, are available. The adoption of a tour group routine complete with elegant bus and color-coded hats is not urged. However, it is important to follow some standards that you might not have employed when you were young(er) or if you were traveling alone. You should never, for example, rent a minibus with seats for 10 and then carry 12 students. Similarly, you should use large, national or transnational rental car companies if a choice is available. You should purchase whatever compulsory insurance is required. Sometimes it may be necessary to spend an extra night in one location to avoid traveling at night on a certain road. Similarly, it may be necessary to pay for two students to travel together even though only one needs to go or to pay for a taxi to transport a student who has a distant or difficult journey from her or his housing to the program site.
You will note the need to spend extra money in several of these situations. As a general rule, whenever in doubt, spend the extra money.
Other actions that may be appropriate are to register with the U.S. embassy and/or local police. (This is often required.) If based in one location, drive to the local hospital emergency room and confirm procedures for handling medical emergencies. Similarly, know how to contact the police.
Finally, trust your instincts and follow them if they tell you that a situation, hired driver, homestay parent, road at night, etc. are dangerous. Do not worry about hurt feelings — safety is paramount.
Please consult the Fall semester Abroad Planning Handbook for additional risk management and health information as well as the websites of the US State Department (http://travel.state.gov/) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/travel).