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U of C revises international travel policy

By Josh Harkema, November 29 2016 —

(With files from Scott Strasser)

In response to the changing risk factors faced by staff and students travelling internationally, the University of Calgary has revised and upgraded its international travel policy and procedure.

U of C director of risk management and insurance Janet Stein said the university’s previous policies for international travel were over 10 years old. The revisions to the policy and procedure include the implementation of a database to track staff and students travelling on university business.

Stein said the provost’s office approved the changes and the revised policy and procedure will go into effect on Dec. 1.

“We needed a better process and one that everybody understood and one that was transparent,” Stein said. “We have a whole set of resources that we offer now that we weren’t able to 10 years ago.”

According to Stein, setting up an international travel registration database for students and staff allows the university to react quickly in the event of a disaster.

“When the earthquake hit Japan [on Nov. 23], we could instantly pull up a spreadsheet of all of the people in Japan and [send] a quick e-mail just to check and make sure that they were okay,” she said.

Stein noted the new system will be easier to access than the current spreadsheet and is also more transparent. Students and staff will be required to register for the new system before they travel and will only be required to enter the dates and destination of any subsequent travel. 

The revisions also include giving students and staff access to a cell phone app that provides information on the infrastructure and political situation in their destination. The app also provides information on any vaccinations they should get before departure.

As per the changes, staff members and students can also be given an SOS phone number to use in the event of an emergency. The phone number provides information on nearby hospitals and emergency translation services if no one is available to speak a language the traveller understands.

“Let’s say you were in an emergency room in Germany and you can’t understand what the doctor is saying, you can call the [app’s] SOS number and they will actually assist you in both languages,” Stein said.

The app is only available to students and staff travelling for academic reasons. Students participating in study abroad programs are included in the new set of procedures.

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