Wednesday, February 23, 2011

People to People Carefully Monitoring Tragic Events in the South Pacific

Our friends in the south Pacific have had more than their share of challenges in the last few months, including the floods and cyclone cyclone Uasi that impacted several cities in Northeast Australia earlier this month. We are carefully monitoring the current situation surrounding the earthquake in New Zealand to determine if the events unfolding might impact our students in any way during the upcoming travel season.

Immediately following news of the earthquake, we prepared frequently asked questions (FAQs) that were provided to all of our delegate support associates. Our objective was to be as prepared as possible for the questions parents may have regarding their children’s future travel plans.

Here is what we know right now:

The earthquake has mainly affected Christchurch and surrounding areas, located on New Zealand’s South Island. The majority of People to People’s itinerary destinations in New Zealand, are unaffected by the earthquake. We will assess the damage to any activity locations however at this point we know highlights for each itinerary will remain the same. The Schedule of Activities will be posted at 60 days prior to departure and will reflect the final itinerary for each If that situation should change in anyway, we would quickly reach out to all parents of students who are planning to travel to New Zealand with any updates regarding alternate programs or cancellations and details on the refunds provided.

The following is an outline of the approach we take in evaluating the impact of natural disasters or other events that may impact the safety of People to People programs:

How We Handle Disasters

  • The most important thing for you to know as parents is that if an event poses a risk to your child’s safety or health, we would not hesitate to cancel or reschedule the program.

  • When a safety threat occurs, key representatives of the organization are immediately notified. We typically receive information from one of the many partners we work with around the world as well as from a government organizations like the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) at the US State Department. Once we have knowledge we immediately seek additional relative information from our partners within that country.

  • We then work with our partners to determine if an event will have lasting repercussions that may require changes to our itinerary. If necessary, we devise plans to off-set any scheduling or itinerary changes that may be needed.

  • Even if a situation appears stabilized, we prepare for the worst case scenario. Our primary concern is for the health and safety of our student travelers as well as our staff traveling with them. We will take every precaution to be prepared to respond in any possible scenario.
[Updated] Should we have any delegates actually traveling on program, we initiate a fully planned, rigorous safety plan run by a duty officer and managed by our 24/7 OnCall center, which coordinates with key executives. We have successfully implemented this plan for events such as the London Bombing, where we had accounted for the safety of all our delegates and made alternate arrangements for them before many parents even knew of that event. [End of Update]

I hope knowing that we take each of these situations very seriously helps ease any concerns a parent might have with regard to our upcoming itinerary in New Zealand. My son will be traveling there this summer and he is extremely excited. He has started reading the newspaper to stay current as the events down under unfold. I am confident that our team at People to People Ambassador Programs is prepared to address any safety threat that may present itself. Together with our health and safety team?, I spend 100% of my day looking out for the health and safety of every student we send on a life changing adventure with People to People Ambassador Programs.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the 75 people known to have perished in this most recent tragic earthquake and we wish gods-speed to the more than 400 rescuers from Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, the United Stated, and Britain who are searching for the remaining missing.

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

Mike Bowers
Senior Director of Health & Safety

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