Risk Management for Group Programs

The health and safety of students is NC State's highest priority. Program personnel, in collaboration with the Study Abroad Office and on-site partners, must build and plan each program component and activity with student health and safety in mind. Risks associated with travel to and study in program locations must be addressed thoroughly to ensure that the University has covered all possible aspects related to program safety, to every extent possible.

NC State Study Abroad Best Practices

  • Coordinates the Study Abroad Emergency Response Team – available 24 hours a day through the NC State Campus Police, + 1 919.515.3000.
  • Monitors U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories regarding the health and safety conditions at all programs in which NC State participants are enrolled.
  • Does not permit travel to designated DOS Restricted Travel areas unless a student has petitioned for and received special approval.
  • Provides health and safety information to enable participants to make informed decisions concerning study abroad.
  • Requires all students and personnel leading programs to carry NC State identified international health insurance, which includes emergency assistance, evacuation, and repatriation.

Site Risk and Safety Assessments

NC State Study Abroad relies on the collaboration of program directors (and identified on-site partners), as experts on the program site, to be closely aware of safety concerns in the program location, to address any safety concerns that may affect the program, and to complete a safety assessment prior to departure. At the same time, if directors have any questions or concerns, the director should discuss those with the Study Abroad Office as further research can be done jointly. Safety assessments are required to aid on-site personnel in planning for student safety and to serve as written documentation of the safety planning that has taken place prior to a program’s departure. The assessment:

  • Ensures that NC State Study Abroad and program personnel are informed about risks associated with program location and how to mitigate those risks
  • Ensures that each program director has developed a plan to respond to health, safety and security issues if they arise
  • Helps NC State Study Abroad to respond to questions from students, parents, or any University officials about program safety
  • Addresses any new issues that may have arisen since the previous year’s assessment
  • Serves as a written record of any changes made to a program in order to mitigate risks and ensure student safety
  • Provides an outline to share site-specific safety information to enable participants to make informed decisions concerning study abroad.

While it would be extremely rare for a program to be canceled or changed substantially, adjustments to onsite arrangements are sometimes necessary or legally required.

  1. Location and Living Arrangements: include details for any safety issues relevant to the proposed study location and living arrangements.
    • If students will reside in homestays or other non-traditional housing outside of an apartment or dormitory, please provide additional information here.
      • Who will provide the homestay families and what criteria will be used to select the homes?
      • Please elaborate on the non-traditional housing arrangement available and it’s suitability for student housing.
        • Will there be interior locks on all student room doors (strongly recommended)?
        • Is a fire extinguisher in the residence?
    • Identify who will be the main point of contact on-site for student support services. The program director or an onsite advisor identified prior to departure and in consultation with the Study Abroad Office must be housed in the same city as the students for the duration of the program, in close vicinity or within easy traveling distance to the group.
    • Students may be housed in shared rooms, but each student must have an individual bed for the duration of the program, including excursions.
  2. Transportation: list the intended mode of transportation during program travel. In the initial program planning it is important to remember the following policies:
    • Study Abroad Program Director Driving Policy: program directors are not allowed to drive students as part of any program activity.
    • Overnight travel (defined as travel that occurs over the night and into the next day) will not be permitted on NC State programs unless program directors clearly document and justify the need and receive prior permission from the Study Abroad Office in writing.
  3. Medical Facilities: Provide information about medical facilities in the area. Program directors are encouraged to utilize the resources provided by the UNC System Health Insurance (insurance login information to access in-network doctor and hospital facility information is available in online program proposal questionnaire)
  4. Program Director Contact Information and Backup: the Program Director will need to be reachable at all times, either by cell phone or by providing a list of the telephone numbers where you can be reached. Note the intended form of communication. For personnel traveling to China, please include a non-Gmail email address.
    • The Comprehensive Safety Assessment will need to identify who will serve as a back-up in case the program director is unavailable, or in case a student gets sick and a staff member needs to stay with the group while the other staff member stays with the student. This can be a co-director, assistant director, a program assistant (typically a graduate student), or an on-site vendor who will be contracted by the program.
  5. Registration with and Location of U.S. Embassy: provide US Embassy or Consulate contact information in the safety assessment.
  6. Pre-departure Information: outline the information you intend to provide to program participants in order to prepare them for the program.
    • NC State study abroad provides some general pre-departure information for students through a handbook and online orientation videos.
    • Program directors are required to hold at least one program-specific orientation session to compliment this general information. Multiple sessions are advised in order to provide thorough details and appropriate preparation prior to their departure.
  7. U.S. State Department Country Specific Information: review the U.S. Department of State’s Consular Information available on the proposed program’s destination and address any concerns in the safety assessment.
  8. Additional Concerns: address any additional concerns that might be raised by students, parents, or University Officials.

  1. Program Location(s), Housing, and Meals
    • First, review the US Department of State Consular Information for your host location and program-specific sites. Assess the safety and security of accommodations, excursion accommodations, classroom/study locations, and other key sites.
    • List factors that indicate the level of comfort and safety students may expect in the host city, in the primary program sites, and commuting between primary program sites.
      • Confirm that the primary and secondary emergency contacts identified will reside in close proximity and within easy commuting distance to the students for the duration of the program.
      • Include detailed information regarding potential safety concerns with the housing: access to exits, public transportation nearby, safe lighting, telephones nearby, fire hazards.
      • Please confirm that students will have individual beds, though shared rooms are permissible.
      • Include detailed information regarding potential safety concerns related to the safety of group meals, access to food and individual meals, clean drinking water, etc.
    • List factors that indicate the safety of any program related travel and excursions.
    • Outline safety concerns related to likely independent travel of students before, during and/or after the program dates. We recommend you provide written information to students prior to departure to address any concerns.
    • Are there any locations near the program site that are considered unsafe where students will not be allowed to go?
  2. Transportation
    • Group Transportation: outline any pre-arranged transportation, including arrival transportation, transportation to excursions, etc.
    • Independent Travel Expectations: outline any pre-departure instructions or program rules that you will provide to students in order to ensure safe travel on public transportation, within country, and/or while participation on the program.
    • Note NC State Personnel Driving Policy: NC State program personnel are not permitted to drive students as part of any program activity. Confirm your adherence to the policy and that solely trained and insured professionals will transport students on-site. While the policy does not prohibit NC State program personnel from driving students outside program time, note that personnel are taking on a personal liability risk by driving students at any time.
  3. Emergency Evacuation Preparedness
    • In the event of a major emergency or problem, students and program personnel may need to be evacuated out of the area or even the country. How would you get out of the country if necessary? Please note, in addition to medical benefits, the International Insurance policy provides political unrest and natural disaster evacuation support and coverage. Some items that are helpful to consider in advance include the following.
      • What if the International Airport is closed or unavailable?
      • Are there trains out of the country? If so, from where to where?
      • Do you have a designated travel agency at the program location that you can use in case of an emergency
      • Where would you find housing for the students if there were a fire or other disaster in their hotel?
    • Overnight Travel, defined as travel that occurs over the night and into the next day is not permissible. Please confirm your adherence to this policy.
      • Many of the most serious accidents on study abroad programs (including multiple fatalities) have occurred during travel at night.
      • To request an exception, justify the need or benefit for overnight travel and outline safety measures in place. It is only permissible if provided in writing from the Study Abroad Office in advance of travel.
  4. Registration with and location of U.S. Embassy
    • List the address and contact info for the Embassy that is the closest to the program site as well as the address and contact info for the Embassy that will be closest when the group travels.
    • All participants and program personnel will be registered with the U.S. Smart Traveller Enrollment Program (STEP) program, which is required by NC State Study Abroad. Please indicate whether you will enroll participants as a group or if you will provide instructions for students to do so in a program handbook/pre-departure materials.
  5. Emergency Meeting Places and Other Study Abroad Programs
    • Identify an emergency meeting place in the primary study location and all other travel locations in case the group is separated at any time and how you will notify students of this location.
  6. Pre-departure Information
    • Outline the information you intend to provide to program participants in order to prepare them for the program. NC State Study Abroad recommends that each program also have a program-specific pre-departure guide or handbook to outline program expectations and rules related to the location, travel, and risk management to complement academic expectations outlined in each course syllabus. It may be easiest to simply provide our office with a copy of any materials you give to students for reference as any issues arise.
      • NC State study abroad provides some general pre-departure information for students through a handbook and online orientation videos.
      • Program directors are required to hold at least one program-specific orientation session to compliment this general information. Multiple sessions are advised in order to provide thorough details and appropriate preparation prior to their departure.
  7. Commitment to Program and Director Availability
    • Outline your availability for the duration of the program that will allow you to fulfill all program director expectations outlined in the relevant contract. Confirm that you will not be leading more than one program at a time.
    • Confirm that you will read and reference emergency response procedures outlined in the Program Director Handbook while on-site.
    • The Study Abroad Office will provide student health, insurance, and passport information. Please confirm that you will review and maintain record privacy of this student data.
  8. Additional Items to Consider
    • Outline any other items that may be unique to your location, particularly concerns that might be raised by students, parents, or University Officials.

Additional Resources