How to Protect Students & Staff Traveling on University Business

Students & Staff Traveling on University Business

Each year, there are over 4.8 million students who study abroad1. Research indicates approximately 333,000 US students2, 29,000 UK students3 and 49,000 Australian students4 are among those who leave home annually to study across the globe. And if your Campus Security or Campus Police team is like most, you have little insight on how many students are in each city overseas, let alone which students are in each location.

During the attacks in Strasbourg5, Sydney6 and Paris7, and the war on Ukraine9, several universities had students in the vicinity but most were unable to identify which students were in the impacted area and determine if they were OK.  This helped raise awareness among higher education officials and security teams about their inability to communicate with and account for people.

Admittedly, terror attacks that impact students abroad are rare, but far more likely are accidents and injuries, assaults, robberies, and medical conditions such as allergies or illness. In fact, now that more and more students are studying abroad, it’s likely each university will eventually have students in the wrong place at the wrong time that get caught up in an incident. And when they do, most students have no idea who to call for help and how emergency support phone numbers vary quite a bit from one country to the next.

And it’s not just students studying abroad. Universities have a number of staff, faculty and students in the field they’re not currently accounting for including:

  • Field Operations staff who are often working in remote areas
  • Faculty conducting research and development abroad
  • Collaborative works with industry or other academic institutions
  • Students that are members of student government, clubs or sports teams that regularly travel to other cities and countries for meetings, matches, games etc.


Limitations Tied to Lack of Situational Awareness

While universities have evolved to be truly global, there’s a tendency by several campus security teams to still focus primarily on providing campus security at a central location i.e. main campus. This issue resonated with attendees at our recent SafeZone Conference in Australia. Universities in Australia are characterized by their large size with multiple campuses, often, separated by rural, wide-open spaces. At least one university was focused on providing security on their main campus but had not yet explored how to provide safeguarding services for students and staff off campus, both for their national operation as well as their overseas campus.

Most universities (without SafeZone) lack situational awareness i.e. don’t know which students and staff are travelling, what country and/or city they’re in, where they’re staying, where each of them is studying/working for the duration of the trip, let alone know when they move from one location to another e.g. a weekend adventure. Based on this, in case of an emergency, they would lack the insights in order to be able to:

  • Issue an emergency advisory i.e. if there was a natural disaster or terror attack in their proximity.
  • Easily check-in with them to verify they’re OK and to provide instructions on how to evacuate or seek assistance.
  • Provide location-based advice for safety, security and emergency situations.

This represents exposure to risk for the university, specifically as it relates to their duty of care to look after students, faculty and staff on university business. And if you think the risks are exaggerated, consider the case of a student who was stricken with tick-borne encephalitis during a school-led trip to China and died. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled to uphold a $41.5 million verdict in favor of the student’s family.8

A Path Forward to Raise Awareness and Reduce Exposure

So clearly there’s a blind spot for most universities and a great deal of exposure. But what can a university do to better prepare for the eventuality of incidents off-campus and how can a university Security Team or Campus Police department tackle such a project?  To assist you, we’ve prepared a series of suggestions for moving forward to both raise awareness of the university’s exposure and make recommendations on how to address these vulnerabilities:

  • Schedule a meeting with members of the university executive team i.e. those responsible for Risk Management, Student Wellbeing, Business Continuity, Travel, Duty of Care and discuss the university’s current exposure.
  • Suggest the investment in a service like SafeZone which offers the ability to address many of the risks raised above by enabling universities to locate specific individuals, easily communicate with them and render assistance as needed. It’s much more than an emergency management app or public safety app as it combines true situational awareness with command and control software for a robust, integrated security solution.
  • Integrate the university’s travel management policy such that those travelling on university business are required to use the SafeZone App so the security team can proactively monitor and readily provide assistance to them as needed.
  • Engage association groups to leverage OmniGuard and SafeZone technology combined. For example, a team lead can be equipped with OmniGuard and all group members with SafeZone for timely response and support on the ground anywhere in the world backed up by the university’s Security and Safety team.
  • Work with the Student Union and Student Services departments to establish and foster a culture of community on your university in which students, even if they don’t believe they will need help, can use a service like SafeZone to call for help for a fellow student or staff member tied to the university.

Universities already have a great deal of responsibility and exposure tied to students and staff that travel on university business, but thanks to new technology like SafeZone, they can better fulfill their duty of care and protect students and staff while minimizing risks to their institution. Since most universities have hundreds of students and staff traveling on university business at any point in time, the use of SafeZone provides ongoing value to universities that take advantage of its functionality. Best of all, given competitive market forces, the university can deliver a consistent student experience on and off campus, regardless of location.  And students and staff can feel confident they can address their safety and wellbeing issues at their fingertips at all times.

To find out more about how SafeZone can help your university better protect its students, faculty and staff as they travel, request a demo or contact us to speak with an existing customer who uses SafeZone to effectively address these challenges.

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