Thursday, March 10, 2011

Travel Safety Tools that Support our Delegations

During the travel season at People to People Ambassador Programs - as with travel of most any kind - minor hurdles can pop up. These "usual suspects" are anticipated, and we successfully and effectively deal with them every year. We have learned the best way to ensure small issues don’t cause a problem during the program is to bring along some very important travel tools. A sample of just a few of these tools will be highlighted in this article for your information.

Leader Credit Cards

If you've traveled in the last ten years, you know all too well how minor and unexpected costs add up on the road (e.g., baggage fees). We've altered our system so these on-site travel expenses can be easily paid for by us, in a way that won't impact your student's experience.

In 2011, every leader that travels with People to People Ambassador Programs will be provided a Leader Credit Card. This card can is used to pay for baggage fees, meals in the event a delegation’s flight is delayed by weather, and other such unexpected events.

In prior years, we provided this card to only to Primary Leaders of each delegation, as most unexpected expenses (at the time) occurred after the group assembled and headed off on their adventure. But with the introduction of baggage fees by most every airline on domestic routes, the need for every leader to have such a card became evident.

Leader cell phones

As technology advances, so do the tools we provide our delegations. Working with Cellhire, based in Dallas Texas, we have developed a Smart Phone solution that meets the needs and protects the interest of delegations.

The Primary Leader of each delegation receives two cell phones prior to travel:

  1. One is a Nokia Cell phone which we refer to as a standard phone. This phone comes with a complete kit including wall and car chargers, an international adapter and either a local SIM card or a roaming SIM card for the destination. (Students can also rent this phone for as little as $45 plus the cost of actual calls.) This phone has a number assigned to the local destination that results in reduced air costs versus using a U.S.-based phone.

  2. The second phone we provide is the Individual Tracking Smartphone which is a Blackberry. Within this phone is a GPS devise that allows our program office to track the delegation around the world. We can even zoom down to a street level to see the same sites as the delegation sees.

    New for this year is a Panic button on the phone. This feature allows the leader to press the button a few time and immediately an alert is sent to our On-call staff, the Cellhire Operations center and to me personally. Receiving this alert triggers immediate contact with the leader, identify their exact location, and then clear up the alert. Once the Panic button is suppressed, a 20 second recording of what is going on around the phone is immediately sent to our office via and email. We can then listen to the recording and determine if the button was suppressed in error or have good information to understand what the source of the alert is. Either way we must talk directly with the leader to clear the alert. Many providers rent such a panic type alert system but we believe we are one of the first if not the first, to include it into the cell phone.

    What’s also really cool is that for a low price of $29, a parent can track the travels of their own child by way of the leader’s phone. When the student returns home, the entire family and sit down and pull up the history of the students travel and relive the adventure together.

Both of these phones can make and receive calls, as well as make and receive SMS messages. Sometimes on less urgent issues we can just send a message to a leader when we need to talk with them instead of waking them up on the more urgent issues. If you are interested in renting a phone for your student while they are on program, learn more here.

Medical First Aid Kit

It might seem obvious to have a first aid kit wherever we travel. But our goal is to make sure that the obvious is never overlooked, no matter where we go.

Every motor coach we use around the world has a first aid kit in it. Leaders are shown the location of these kits as soon as they arrive in the country they are visiting. Also virtually every venue we visit has trained first aid staff, a medical station, and/or a first aid kit available. Of course we also have full service medical facilities quickly available all along the way for the more serious situations.

On occasion the delegation is away from the motor coach for longer periods of time - such as when students are participating in a community service project or out taking advantage of the great scenery around the world. In these cases we felt it was important to provide a portable option for the leaders to keep with them.

  • Each Primary leader receives one of these first aid kits about 7 weeks prior to travel. That means no less than two and many times many more are on each delegation.
  • The kits are full of items typically used when administering basic first aid. This year - based on great feedback from our leaders - we have added more items including face masks, disposable thermometers, CPR barriers, and bio bags that allow leaders to safety dispose of waste products such as used bandages, etc.

Each year we invest a great deal of time and effort in evaluating the tools we provide and new technology that will help us remain the leader in safe travel. These are just a few examples of ways we help ensure your child is safe and healthy so that they can take advantage of this great opportunity to experience the world first hand.

As always, I wish you all safe travels and a healthy life!
Mike Bowers
Senior Director of Health & Safety

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