Crisis Management for International Programs

Definitions
In "Coping with Perceived Emergencies" (1989), Diane Snell draws a distinction between "real" and "perceived" emergencies.

Real emergencies are those that pose a genuine and sometimes immediate risk to, or that have already disturbed, the health, safety, and well-being of participants. These include such occurrences as coups and other civil disturbances; natural and man-made disasters; incarcerations; serious illness; accidents; physical assaults; disappearances or kidnappings; and terrorist threats and attacks.

Perceived emergencies are those which pose no significant risks to the health, safety, and security of participants, but which are seen as threatening by family members in the U.S. or by others, including, at times, students and colleagues at Gettysburg College. Perceptions of threat can arise out of a number of things, including the sensationalized reporting of an event abroad, the distortion of information provided by a participant in a telephone call or letter home, or simply out of the nervousness of a family member or student with little or no international experience. Such perceptions will sometimes affect family members and others in the U.S. more strongly than will real emergencies.

Operating Principles
In managing emergencies, real or perceived, the Office for Off-Campus Studies will be guided in its decision-making, before, during and after a crisis, by the following operating principles:

1. All responses to a crisis will be informed by the highest concern for the health, safety and well-being of Program participants and staff.

2. All reasonable and prudent measures will be taken to limit the College's legal liabilities, while at the same time conforming to the standards of ethical practice for Education Abroad as described in the Code of Ethics of NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

3. The Office for Off-Campus Studies will exercise caution and restraint in deciding when, and with whom, information about an emergency should be shared, and will operate according to the procedures outlined under "Procedures" below and the College's emergency plan in deciding how information should be shared.

4. The Office for Off-Campus Studies will respond to emergencies by closely following the procedures outlined below, except when otherwise directed by circumstances or agencies outside the College's control.

Whether an emergency, real or perceived, it must be dealt with in a timely and appropriate manner. Perceived emergencies can yield as much, if not more negative press comments, parent reactions, and other consequences as real ones.

Emergency Procedures

Definition: An emergency is any event or situation that poses a threat to the health, safety, security and/or well-being of Gettysburg College students, faculty, or staff abroad. Emergencies may be real or perceived.

DISCOVERY
Gather Facts.
Contact relevant personnel abroad and in the US. (These may include the Resident Director, Director of the International Office of the host university, US Ambassador or designate, USIS advisor, local press, alumni, Country desk officer at the US state department, other US based programs in that particular country)
Monitor news sources (CNN TV and Web, AP, Reuters, NPR, and foreign sources)
Determine nature and extent of threat(s).
Ascertain all pertinent details (location, time, identity, etc.)
Contact relevant experts locally and abroad to aid in the interpretation of the situation and the facts.

Use the following Worksheet to gather facts and to determine the extent of the emergency.

Worksheet Determine the extent of the emergency

Off Campus Studies should ascertain the following:
See the general contact numbers and web addresses in the Appendix to this section. Individual Program managers should assemble specific numbers for each of their programs.

___the physical and psychological condition of participant(s)
___the imminent risk to participant(s) if they remain where they are
___the precise location and telephone numbers of participant(s)
___if Faculty Director is in close contact with participant(s)
___whether food, water and adequate medical attention is available
___the precise nature of medical treatment participant(s) have received/are receiving
___the names, addresses, telephone and fax numbers of the attending physician(s), clinic(s) and/or other health professionals involved
___whether adequate and secure housing is available
___if a participant has been injured, assaulted or raped, the precise details of the accident or attack, and the on-site response and subsequent follow-up to the emergency
___if the participant is seriously ill or injured, what the diagnosis is and whether airlift is a viable and desirable option
___if a participant is missing, for how long, and whether search and rescue operations are available or already being used
___if a student has been arrested, whether the U.S. Embassy has been notified, what charges have been filed, and what legal counsel is available or has been consulted.
___if a student has been taken hostage, what negotiation support is available
___if the emergency is political, or if a disaster has occurred, whether the U.S. Embassy has advised participants to take appropriate action
___what the proximity of the event is to participant(s)
___if the event is political, what the target of the unrest is
___whether there is a curfew, or if travel is in any way being restricted in the country
___what kind of military or other security personnel are present, and how they are behaving
___whether classes have been disrupted, and for how long

On the basis of this and other relevant information, make an initial determination as to whether the emergency is:

PERCEIVED: There is no significant risk to the health, safety, and security of program participants or staff overseas.

REAL: There is indeed a significant risk to the heath, safety, and security of program participants or staff overseas.

III. Determine a course of action.

A. If the emergency is PERCEIVED:

The Director of the Office for Off-Campus Studies or his/her designate, will write a brief description of the nature and extent of emergency and description of action(s) being taken (to be forwarded to PR, President, Dean of the College, Director of residence Life, Provost, and Director of Safety and Security)

The Director, or his/her designate, will advise the President or the Provost as to whether scope and/or potential impact of the situation warrants that the College's Campus Emergency response Team (CERT) be convened.

IF THE CERT IS NOT CONVENED,
The Director, or his/her designate, will write a brief statement of the situation to be given to all appropriate campus personnel with instructions as to whether this can be shared when there are inquiries or whether such inquiries shall be directed to public relations or the CERT.

The Director, or his/her designate, will contact all affected parties. These may include:
A student (or the entire group)
A student's parents (or all of the parents of a group)
Personnel on site
Campus faculty, administrators, and/or students
Alumni

In all communication beyond the Office for Off-Campus Studies and CERT, care should be taken to prevent the reinforcing of rumors or other false stories or perceptions.

IF THE CERT IS CONVENED,
Although all further actions will be guided by established College procedure and emergency plans, the College should continue to consult regularly and often with the Faculty Director and other appropriate people abroad to decide what specific measures should be taken in responding to the perceived crisis.

B. If the Emergency is REAL:

The Director of the Office for Off-Campus Studies, or his/her designate, will write a brief description of nature and extent of emergency and description of action(s) being taken (to be forwarded to PR, President, Dean of the College, Provost, Director of Safety and Security, and the Director of Residence Life)

The Director, or his/her designate, will advise the President or Provost as to whether scope and/or potential impact of the situation warrants that the CERT be convened.

IF THE CERT IS NOT CONVENED,
The Director, or his/her designate, will write a brief statement of the situation to be given to all appropriate campus personnel with instructions as to whether this can be shared when there are inquiries or whether such inquiries shall be directed to public relations or the CERT.

The Director, or his/her designate, will contact all affected parties. These may include:
A student (or the entire group)
A student's parents (or all of the parents of a group)
Personnel on site
Campus faculty, administrators, and/or students
Alumni

In all communication beyond the Office for Off-Campus Studies and the CERT, care should be taken to prevent the reinforcing of rumors or other false stories or perceptions.

IF THE CERT IS CONVENED
All further actions will be guided by established College procedure and emergency plans. However special attention should be paid to the following:

WHETHER OR NOT THE CERT IS CONVENED, the College should continue to consult regularly and often with the Faculty Director and other appropriate people abroad to decide what specific measures should be taken in responding to the crisis.

  • all emergency measures and responses should be communicated as clearly, and in as much detail, as possible.
  • participants should be reassured that everything is being done to assure their security and well-being, and that we are counting on their cooperation in responding to the crisis;
  • participants should be told that the College has had experience dealing with emergencies in the past, and that we will work with them in order to respond effectively and appropriately.
  • participants should be told that the College is or will be in contact with their families, if this is an appropriate course of action
  • participants should be directed to stay in close contact with the Faculty Director, to let him or her know of their precise whereabouts throughout the crisis, and to report any suspicious persons or packages to him or her;
  • if appropriate, the Faculty Director and participants should be directed to establish and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate throughout the crisis, registering the students as necessary.
  • participants should be directed to exercise common sense in responding to the crisis, and to avoid contact with or travel to the affected area;
  • the Faculty Director and participants should be directed to remove all signs or any other objects, at the academic center or at the homestays, that would call attention to them or to the Program, as warranted
  • participants should be directed to keep a low profile, to avoid dress and behavior, which will attract attention, to avoid using luggage tags, and to avoid places where Americans are known to congregate.
  • if evacuation of a participant or participants is necessary, or if it could become necessary, an evacuation plan should be devised, in as much detail as possible. This plan should be transmitted in confidence to the Faculty Director. To be considered:

1. the safety of various routes and modes of travel;
2. how to meet the costs of evacuation;
3. the advisability of reducing risk to participants by separating them into smaller groups;
4. the availability of in-country resources.

If evacuation is to be by air, direct flights should be scheduled whenever possible.

REMEMBER TO WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN EVERY STEP OF THE WAY

IV. Evaluate the process when it's over and make changes in the plan for the next time.

Appendix:

Contact numbers:
a. The U.S. State Department
Citizens Emergency Center deals with serious illness, death, financial crisis due to theft, or arrest; call (202) 647-5226 8:15 a.m.-5:00 p.m. M-F and 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Saturdays; call (202) 647-1512 from 10:00 p.m.-8:00 a.m. and ask for the Citizen Emergency Center Duty Officer.

For long-standing crises, the U.S. State Department sometimes creates special Task Forces to monitor them; for background information on such crises, call the State Department's Operations Center: Office of Crisis Management at (202) 647-0900.

For information concerning a terrorist threat or action, call the State Department's Counterterrorist Office at (202) 647-9892.
Country Desks (use main number and ask for the appropriate country desk officer)
Web address:
travel.state.gov

b. Reuters News Service often has information about events abroad before the State Department does; call New York (646-223-4300) or London +44 20 7250 1122. Web address http://www.reuters.com/

c. CNN; cnn.com

d. CIEE may also have useful information, because of their extensive international networks; call (212) 661-1414.

e. International Program Offices of colleges and universities with programs in the same city or country may be useful; consult Academic Year Abroad for program listings. (program managers should identify those with whom they have already established a relationship.)