Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Australia Delegation Safe: We Keep an Eye on Disaster

Every year about this time we hear of some catastrophic event happening around the world. When it involves a country or a city we plan to visit during our travel season, we jump into action.

This year the flood in eastern Australia has demanded our attention, and the attention of families of students who plan to participate in one of our Australia delegations this summer.

Fortunately it appears now that the Australia programs will not be negatively impacted by the floods over the past several weeks. With the exception of the town of Horsham, the latest reports indicate the worst may be over and the water levels have started to subside.

From the information we have gathered from our partners, all major attractions will still be visited. We are also exploring opportunities for our students to engage in some form of community service to support our friends in Australia later this summer.

How We Handle Disasters
I’ve said this before but it never hurts to repeat it: If an event poses a risk to your child’s safety or health, we would not hesitate to cancel or reschedule the program to remove that threat.

When traveling to over 60 countries on all seven continents, something seems to come up each year that requires our immediate and full assessment of the potential impact.

Based on current events in Australia, I thought I would take a moment to share with you what steps we do take to ensure the safety of our students and to ensure the destinations in question are suitable to visit.
  • When an event happens, key representatives of the organization are immediately notified. Sometimes the information comes to us directly from one of the many partners we work with around the world and sometime from a government organization like the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) at the US State Department.

  • Once we have knowledge we immediately seek more relative information from our partners within that country.

  • We then work with our partners to determine if an event will have lasting repercussions or if our itinerary can stay intact. If necessary, we devise plans to off-set any scheduling or itinerary changes that may be needed. In the case of Australia, early indications seem to indicate there will be no alternation to the scheduled programs. (If anything, we may have to change sites planned to see Koala Bears or something to that extent.)

  • We then bring a team of executives together to evaluate the alternatives. Last year we were faced with the ash cloud over Europe caused by the volcano in Iceland. In that case the out-come was less clear at the point the volcano erupted, so our executive team went to great lengths to plan how students would be housed and transported to and from Europe with special emphasis on designing a program that would never leave a student alone. As you can imagine, that plan was very detailed and in the end, it wasn’t used. The ash passed and the event did not impact our programs.

  • Even if a situation appears stabilized, we prepare for the case if a problem worsens or materializes as we forecasted. In 2009 we had a similar plan when we heard of the first reported case of Swine flu in Mexico. We had no way of forecasting the magnitude that event achieved but we planned none the less. In that case the plan was executed and worked well to protect the interest of our students and their families.
I hope knowing that we take each of these situations very seriously helps ease any concerns a parent might have for allowing their child to visit Australia. My son will be traveling there this summer and he is extremely excited. He has also started reading the newspaper to stay current as the events down under unfold. We are excited, too, because we know People to People Ambassador Programs goes to great lengths to make sure students are going to be safe and not impacted by these tragedies.

In the meantime, our hearts go out to those families impacted by this historical event and most especially to our close friends and partners who we work with to deliver our unique life changing experiences in Australia.

As always, I wish you all safe travels and a healthy life!

Mike Bowers
Senior Director of Health & Safety

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the timely information. Parents and delegates can rest assured that everyone's safety is of utmost importance!