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American Institute for Foreign Study Incident Response Plan

To All Staff

AIFS is committed to a prompt and efficient response to any incident which could affect the safety of students, faculty or staff or impact on the operation of a programme.

We take the following standard precautions on all programme sites in an attempt to maximize the safety of our programme participants:

  1. All AIFS students are required to register with the local U.S. Embassy/Consulate.

  2. We receive immediate direct information from the U.S. State Department on matters of concern.

  3. We provide comprehensive pre-departure and on site orientation information about personal safety and security.

  4. We keep students up to date with U.S. Government advice for U.S. citizens overseas and advise them on areas of the world that they should not visit at times that the U.S. State Department has advisories in force.

  5. We do not display signs using the words American or USA outside any of our facilities.

  6. We provide on going support, information and advice to students from a skilled team of student advisors, complemented by an experienced management team.

  7. AIFS is a major participant in the Association of American Study Abroad Programmes which provides an extensive information and support network and insights into the issues affecting U.S. students studying abroad.

Any serious incident involving programme participants should be reported immediately to me, Kirsty Isherwood and Tracy Dicks in London and to Paul Watson and Sharon Secki in the Stamford office. I, or Kirsty or Tracy in my absence, will then inform the relevant U.S. campus coordinators and parents as appropriate. Where necessary, the AIFS Crisis Management Team, consisting of Tracy Dicks, Kirsty Isherwood, Corinne Cohen and myself will convene and implement the Crisis Management Plan. As it is AIFS policy to require all students on our programmes to register with the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate, they should also be informed in the event of a serious incident.

Please familiarize yourself with the list of potential incidents below, along with preventative measures and recommended action for each. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Ailsa Brookes
Senior Vice President

Potential Incidents

1. Injury to, or Illness of, Programme Participant

Preventative measures

All AIFS programme participants are provided with medical insurance coverage for the duration of the programme, subject to standard exclusions for pre-existing conditions. Through Team Assist, AIFS also provides a 24-hour travel assistance service staffed by multi-lingual coordinators trained to help should an injury or illness arise while traveling.

At the AIFS orientation meeting, students are advised about personal safety including living in a foreign place, security in the accommodation, avoiding traveling alone at night, recommended methods of travel, handling of electrical appliances in their accommodation, adjusting to the cultural diversities, dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, the laws relating to drug use, dressing appropriately for the climate, prompt reporting of medical problems and the availability of confidential counseling services.

All semester/quarter students are required to submit a medical examination form to AIFS before the programme begins, outlining their medical history and detailing medications required. Also, students are advised in the AIFS pre-departure handbook to ensure that they bring sufficient medication for the duration of the programme and a copy of all prescriptions.

Once at the programme site, students are given an ID card containing contact information for AIFS, the emergency services and other useful numbers and are advised to carry this card with them at all times.  Students are also required to fill out a Personal Information form, which is kept on file in the AIFS office for reference. 

AIFS provides an on-site staff member to monitor students.  It is AIFS policy to send all full time student services staff members on First Aid training courses.

Action if required

If a student contacts AIFS with an illness or an injury:

  • Establish the nature of the illness or injury.

  • Contact the emergency services or arrange for student to see a doctor as appropriate.

  • Contact hospital or doctor to activate the student’s medical insurance coverage. If illness/injury is serious alert Team Assist (Tel: 713 267 2525 Ref GLB9111599 for semester/quarter programmes or GLB 9112798 for short-term programmes). Also alert Linda Langin, SVP of the AIFS insurance division in the Stamford office.

  • If student is hospitalized, send a staff member to the hospital immediately. 

  • If student is hospitalized, advise student to contact friends/family and offer to do so on their behalf.

  • If student is treated at their accommodation, visit regularly to check progress and provide any assistance necessary.

If a student contacts AIFS from outside programme site with an illness or injury:

  • Establish the nature of the illness or injury.

  • Contact the emergency services or provide student with contact information for a local hospital or doctor. Contact Team Assist who will provide multilingual help and advice and arrange for the student to receive treatment in their current location or to be transferred to the programme site or the U.S, if necessary.

  • If appropriate, staff travels to see student.

  • If student is hospitalized, see action above

  • In either of the above circumstances:

  • If a student needs to return to the U.S. for medical treatment, liaise with Team Assist and assist student in notifying their parents and U.S. doctor.

  • If appropriate, notify resident faculty that student will be absent from class.

2. Unexplained Absense of a Student During the Programme

Preventative measures

At the on-site orientation, students are offered extensive advice on safety and security. All students are required to notify AIFS staff if they plan to be away from their residence overnight and to provide contact information and expected date of return.

They are also asked to call AIFS if they subsequently find that they will be away longer than originally planned.

As part of the application process, students are required to supply AIFS with passport photos. One of these is kept on file in case of student disappearance.

Action if required

If a student has not been seen, without explanation, for a period of 24 hours:

  • Contact student’s friends and faculty to establish if they know of student’s whereabouts.

  • Contact last known address (if student is traveling).

  • Contact home stay host if applicable.

  • Contact local hospitals to see if student has been admitted.

  • Contact local police with description, photograph and last known whereabouts.

3. Death of a Programme Participant

Action required

  • Notify AIFS management immediately.

  • Assist in the formal identification of the body.

  • Notify next of kin or designated emergency contact as indicated on programme application form.

  • Notify resident faculty and U.S. campus co-ordinator.

  • Notify U.S. Embassy.

  • Designate a contact staff member for liaison with the appropriate authorities in the programmes site and to supervise the collection and storage of the deceased’s effects.

  • Offer assistance to any family member(s) in making arrangements to come to the programme site if they so desire.  Meet family member(s) at airport, arrange accommodation and local assistance.

  • Assist with repatriation of body.

4. Major Incident in a Programme Site

Preventative measures

On arrival in programme site, students are issued with a “Security Abroad” document advising them of basic safety precautions and informed that they are required to register with the local U.S. Embassy (detailed instructions on how to do this are provided).

Action required in the event of a major accident (underground train crash, fire in department store etc.).

  • Contact U.S. Embassy for latest information on involvement of U.S. citizens.

  • Contact all students to establish that they are safe and not involved in the incident. All students must be seen personally by an AIFS staff member or faculty member before they can placed on the list of “located” students.

  • Advise all students to call home to reassure family/friends.

  • Contact U.S. campus coordinator to confirm status of events.

  • If individual students are injured, see 2 or 3 above.

Additional action in the event of terrorist activity

  • Staff to liaise with U.S. Embassy and local authorities on suggested precautions.

  • Staff to issue updated security advisory to all students.

  • Review programme status with U.S. campus coordinators.

5. Arrest of a Student 

Preventative measures

In the AIFS pre-departure student handbook and at on-site orientation, students are advised that they are subject to local laws and that AIFS and American Consular officials can do very little in the event of the law being broken. A specific warning is given about penalties for possession of or trafficking in drugs.

Action if required

  • Assist the student in arranging legal representation.

  • Assist in contacting the U.S. Embassy who will make contact with the student’s friends and family if requested to do so.

  • Co-operate with the authorities in providing information as requested.

6. Dangers to Public Health

Action required in the event of health warnings of contaminated food, infected water supply etc.

  • Immediately contact all students with up to date information and advice.

  • Inform U.S. campus coordinators of status of events.

  • Liaise with local authorities and take any action necessary to remove students from immediate risk.

7. U.S. Travel Advisory

Action required in the event of the U.S. State Department issuing a travel warning which advises U.S. citizens either not to travel to the programme site, or to leave it if already there.

  • If the programme has not started, postpone or cancel start of programme with full refunds.

  • If the programme has started, suspend the programme and fly the students home.

  • Provide pro-rata refund of programme fees according to proportion of programme not completed.

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