Tuesday, August 3, 2010

So Far, so Good on Another Great Travel Season!

First off, my apologies for this recent downtime on the blog. We are in full swing here! With roughly a month to go, I’m happy to report that the 2010 summer travel season has been a success so far (knock on wood).

(Sidenote: Growing up I played a lot of baseball and as ball players, we had a tendency to be a little superstitious. Some players need to wear the same socks; some have to take exactly the same number of swings prior to stepping into the batter’s box; and for others you might have to say the same prayer prior to taking the field. For me, knocking on wood when things were going well was a good way to make sure nothing changed.)

This year we have been knocking on a lot of wood and are happy to report incidents are up by 15.8%. That’s right I am happy to say reported incidents are up. Why you might ask? Well here’s my logic.

We have spent this past year providing extra direction and training for leaders and implementing procedures to better protect our students while on one of our life changing travel experiences. One key step in accomplishing that goal is to report every single incident, no matter how small, to the program office. That way we can help guide the leader to the proper conclusion of that incident. This also helps us ensure greater consistency in how issues are handled from one delegation to another.(Photo from Wonderful Graffiti decal.)

Just How Small?
As a quick reminder, every time a parent calls the office during the travel season with a request like “I haven’t heard from my son in a week, could you tell him to call his mom?” we open an incident report. ("Incident" sounds strong in this case. If you have a suggestion for a new term, please let me know by posting a comment on this blog.)

By opening an incident report, we put a detailed description of the request in our software system and then send an email out to all associates on the On-Call distribution list. This list includes virtually every one of our more that 224 associates, including all vice presidents,
the president and the CEO of the organization.

That means when a mom calls in with such a r
equest, everyone in our organization knows of that specific request and who is responsible for following up.

All this within minutes of receiving the call from mom.

(Above, my photo of Associate Whitney Jones, hard at work fielding calls.)

Resolving Incidents
We track the time an incident is opened and when it is closed. The incident can only be closed when every action item has been confirmed to have taken place.

For example, in the above scenario, the leader must confirm with our office that the call to mom was placed by her son and when. We can also confirm this directly with the mom. Once confirmed and we know everyone is satisfied with the resolution, we close the incident.

Quicker Turnaround
So far for 2010, the time it takes for us to properly resolve any incident has dropped more than 20% from .8 days to .64 days. Considering most of our delegations are spread around the world in opposite time zones, that’s a great accomplishment.

Having people in our program office 24 hours a day, seven days a week to take that call and to make the follow-up calls to the leaders and students is what makes it all possible. (Like Associate Sara Rees, in the photo above!)

Fortunately for all of us, this year hasn't yielded many extreme incidents (knock on wood). On the other hand, as of July 18th, we have had 365 parents call to ask if we could have their child call home. Parents, please, try to be forgiving. It isn’t that they don’t miss home at times (we had 105 homesick calls) it is really more about the student meeting some great new friends on the program and seeing some really amazing sites. They're on the go all day long and by the time the leader stops by for the bed check at night, they are just plain tuckered out.

But if you’re worried, give us a call and we will open an incident. Rest assured my staff will be making sure your child calls home as quickly as possible.

Until next time - I’m wishing you safe and happy travels,
Mike Bowers
Senior Director of Health and Safety


  1. If you were to refer to the calls only as: A connection update, that way it's clear it's not serious, just that a connection or update needs to be made between the student and parent.
    Incident- sounds like someone was hurt or something happened in a negative manor.
    Good luck

  2. I appreciate the suggestion. We are meeting now to wrap up the past season and review lessons learned and how we may improve going forward. I will toss out your idea at that meeting. I agree, incident makes it sounds so much more serious.