Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Duty Officers: A Key Investment in Student Safety

As I've previously discussed, People to People Ambassador Programs staffs our Delegate Care center with associates who answer the phones 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We need this coverage during the summer travel season. (The rest of the year, our call center associates stand-at-the-ready from 6:00am - 6:00pm PST to assist families interested in our enrollment process.)

We also staff a Duty Officer 24/7.
Our Duty Officers are experts in People to People travel programs, and know all the resources and tools that are at their disposal to support our delegations around the world. In other words, they understand the appropriate action and follow-up for each possible situation that can arise during the travel season.

For the 2010 season, we made the decision and investment to employ four full-time Duty Officers. (Up until this season, we had many duty officers that joined us for only a week at a time.)

Here they are, from left to right: Joy Sloane, Jodie Iverson, Holly Hanna and Carla McCaskill.

Having four intensively trained and dedicated people in place for the entire travel season, allows us to provide the best, most consistent response system. Trust me, these folks have heard it all and so when a situation arises they know how to handle it immediately.

Our Duty Officers are also trained to coach teacher leaders when dealing with everything from a minor sore throat to a more serious situation like an appendicitis attack. Fortunately, this year we have just not seen many of the more extreme incidents. We believe the decline in extreme incidents is due to the amount of dedication and work put into revising our procedures, and our investment in expanded leader training - including the training provided to our Duty officers.

Dealing with the Unexpected: Duty Officers in Action
Of course, we did have a few serious situations arise during this most recent travel season. For example:
  • On two separate occasions a student felt a little "off" during the program, so we quickly had them examined by a medical professional. Both were diagnosed as diabetics during the program. Prior to the program they had no knowledge or hint of their diabetes.
  • We also encountered another situation where a student had unusual symptoms. Again we immediately sought a medical expert’s opinion and to everyone’s surprise the student was diagnosed with epilepsy.
  • In all three cases we quickly and efficiently accompanied the student to the medical professional and the problem was discovered. None of these three students had been diagnosed with these problems prior to the program. The great news for all of us is with our skilled team of Duty officers on deck, none of these situations went unnoticed and the problems were quickly discovered and addressed.
I tell you these stories because while on program, people are still people, students are still students and life is real life. Things do come up and problems do surface. I have a 16 and 18 year old at home and I don’t think many days go by without some new adventure or challenge surfacing. What I want you to walk away with after reading this blog post is that, at People to People Ambassador Programs, we understand things come up. We also are committed to continuing to improve the support systems and tools we use to address those events to minimize any possible negative outcome. The investment in four full-time experienced Duty Officers is just one more tangible way of demonstrating that commitment.

Until next time - I’m wishing you safe and happy travels, 

Mike Bowers 

Senior Director of Health and Safety

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