(Adapted from the Crisis Management Handbook: A Guide for Overseas
Staff, Peace Corps Volunteer
1.1 CRISIS MANAGEMENT
A crisis is any significant event with potentially severe consequences
that requires immediate action or response. For the purpose of this Handbook
the focus will be on crises of a regional or national scope. The types of
regional or national crisis posts may encounter include:
- Natural Disasters
- Civil Unrest
- Political Uprisings
- Environmental Catastrophes
All of these crises have several aspects in common:
- They can result in a disruption or early termination of the program,
or the closing of the study abroad center or university in the country.
- They usually cause significant emotional stress to the individuals
involved, resulting in predictable cognitive, physical and behavioral reactions.
- They can be managed.
Crisis management is the process of preparing for, mitigating,
responding to and recovering from a crisis situation. It requires (1) an
organized plan to ensure the safety and survival of self and community,
and (2) an understanding of the human response to stress. Crisis management
is a dynamic process that begins well before the critical event and extends
beyond its conclusion. As all those in the field know, there are many kinds
of crises, from natural disasters to accidents and injuries to civil unrest,
riots, and military coups. Each stage before, during and after a crisis
presents special challenges and requires different strategies for effective
- There should be on-site staff and/or faculty in each country responsible
for supporting the safety and well being of all students. To that end,
that person or group of people should do whatever is necessary and possible
in a crisis to protect students. This responsibility may, at times, appear
to conflict with the values or respect for the student's individual autonomy
and independence. In matters relating to personal safety, the authority
of the governing body (e.g., college or university study abroad program,
the U.S. State Department, Program Administrator, Embassy, national policy)
will supersede the individual wishes of students. While every person responds
to and deals with crises uniquely, there is little time "in the heat
of the moment" to negotiate the handling of a crisis. Students must
quickly heed all orders to respond. Therefore, they need to understand
the reality of "autonomy vs. authority" before an emergency
occurs so they are prepared to follow the procedures designed to help them.
Experience has shown that preparation, communication and certain administrative
procedures are essential in managing a crisis. The same experience has also
highlighted the importance of creativity, innovation and the exercise of
sound judgment in the face of chaos, absurdity and human frailty. This handbook
provides crisis management guidance based on considerable research and decades
of Peace Corp experience. It is intended as a resource for the study abroad
program administrators in the US and abroad to augment decision making and
management skills. The core for the Handbook is presented in three chapters
titled Before, During and After the Crisis.
The first chapter, Before the Crisis, will provide strategies
- Develop an Emergency Action Plan (EAP)
- Rehearse the Plan
- Implement a warning system
- Continue to test and update the Plan
The second chapter, During the Crisis, will discuss how to:
- Mobilize and activate the plan
- Coordinate with other agencies
- Support students and staff
The third chapter, After the Crisis, will give advice on how to:
- Debrief all victims (direct, indirect, hidden)
- Return to normal
- Continue counseling and support as needed
- Reassess hazards
- Revise the Emergency Action Plan
1.2 BARRIERS TO PREPAREDNESS
A number of barriers may arise to challenge preparedness efforts. The
following are some examples.
There is often a general apathy toward emergency preparedness.
Lack of public awareness of the threat and a tendency to underestimate the
risks involved are major contributors to apathy about preparedness. Competing
priorities with daily demands, lack of confidence in the effectiveness of
preparatory actions, and ambiguity about who is responsible for preparing
Disasters and crises are different form routine emergencies.
Program administrators and staff are assigned new and unfamiliar duties
in a crisis. Everyday procedures and priorities are altered as are divisions
of labor and resources. In addition, different agencies are required to
work together in ways not previously required.
Good communication is essential and almost always a problem.
The amount and types of information people need before, during and after
a crisis increases significantly form the norm. Lack of standard terminology
and everyday "people problems" can lead to misunderstandings,
inaccurate information, and misinterpretations.
The "Paper Plan Syndrome" can give people a false sense
of security. The Emergency Action Plan is an illusion of preparedness
unless accompanied by training and practice.
1.3 STRATEGIES TO OVERCOME THE BARRIERS
Overseas staffs with crisis experience have suggested some strategies
that can be effective in overcoming these barriers to preparedness.
Plan for the most likely hazards or crises. Use recent
experience to fight apathy. Preparation for more common crises is more likely
to receive public support and be cost effective. People pay attention to
what they see as relevant. Preparing for likely hazards also provides a
training ground for dealing with other emergencies.
Develop a basic Emergency Action Plan with response requirements
that would be applicable in any situation. While it is impossible
to prepare for all contingencies, basic steps must be taken in all emergencies
that can be practiced and perfected. Examples are communications, health
concerns, information management, transportation, prioritization and coordination,
and food and water resources. Key roles must also be defined and assigned
to specific individuals or groups.
Develop a flexible Emergency Action Plan that progresses in stages
with clear indictors for progression from one stage to another.
Practice, practice, and practice the Emergency Action Plan.
Integrate emergency actions into normal routines. Reporting
procedures, communication practices, prioritization and coordination can
all be integrated in a standard set of procedures so that they are second
nature in times of emergency.
Involve the users of the Emergency Action Plan in its development
and implementation. Users of the plan are not limited to program
administrators, staff, and faculty both at home and abroad, but also other
agencies, local government officials, and anyone who might have a role or
responsibility in carrying out some part of the plan. The importance of
a coordinated process in developing the plan cannot be over-emphasized.
It facilitates coordination during the crisis itself.
The Emergency Action Plan must look at the big picture.
The Emergency Action Plan must take into account all the organizations and
persons involved in coping with a crisis. These might include the US Embassy,
host country governments, police and military, airport officials, telecommunications,
travel agents, news media, missionaries, local hospitals and clinics, etc.,
and of course, the college or university/study abroad program offices. This
is the time to look at the effect of an evacuation on host country nationals
and contractors, so that they can be aware of what the college or university/study
abroad program can and cannot do for them, and plan accordingly.
In summary, emergency action planning and crisis management are processes
involving an entire system of people and organizations.
2. BEFORE THE CRISIS: PLANNING
Planning is a critical component in crisis management. A comprehensive
planning process includes not only creating a plan, but training, rehearsing,
coordinating with other agencies, and periodically evaluating and updating
the plan. The EAP provides a framework for contingency planning and defines
the communication network to be used in an emergency. The college or university/study
abroad programs should have an EAP to provide for the safety and orderly
withdrawal of staff and students. The EAP is "living document"
that will require regular revision as staff and students come and go, or
as the general conditions within the country change. The following sections
provide guidelines for the process of Emergency Action Planning.
2.1 DEVELOPING AN EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN
The Peace Corps EAP is usually a single document that contains 1) an
introduction, 2) the basic plan itself, 3) modular extensions or "pull-out"
sheets, and 4) any supporting documents or reference materials. There are
four basic steps to creating a plan. These are:
- Establishing a planning team
- Analyzing the hazards in country and the capacity to respond
- Developing the plan itself
- Operationalizing the plan
Each of these steps is outlined below.
2.1.1 Establishing a Planning Team
While the Program Administrator(s) has/have the ultimate responsibility
for developing, updating and implementing an Emergency Action Plan (EAP),
the plan is part of a larger system that includes the college or university,
the study abroad program office abroad and in the U.S., the US Embassy (the
Regional Security Officer or RSO), and the larger community. It is therefore
most effective to coordinate emergency planning efforts with the Embassy
and RSO as key team members.
The Emergency Action Planning team should include the users of the plan
and representatives from each group or organization that would have a critical
role in its implementation. Key members should include the following:
- Program Administrator
- Other Administrators
- On-site Health Provider
- On-site Counseling Provider
- Insurance Representative
- 24 Hour Assistance
- U.S. college or university/Study abroad program support team
- student affairs administrators
- study abroad administrators
- campus security officer
- risk manager
- legal counsel
- health center
- counseling center
- public relations
- president or chancellor's office
- Embassy representative
- Student representative
Any document produced should be given broad staff and student review.
This will help ensure that all factors are taken into account, and enable
staff and students to consider their own contingencies.
The primary task of each member of the planning team is to define his/her
respective role and responsibilities in carrying out the EAP, including
coordination with U.S. Embassy, college or university /study abroad program
in the U.S. or abroad, host country government and other agencies and resources.
The planning team will also need to define clear lines of authority and
their responsibilities to each other in implementing a coordinated effort.
To the extent possible, planning team members could also be members of
the task force that responds to the crisis. They will already be familiar
with the EAP and will have had experience working as an effective team.
2.1.2 Analyzing the Hazards and Capabilities
The next step toward creating an EAP involves gathering information about
probable emergencies and environmental hazards, and assessing the current
capabilities of the system to respond. The following tasks will help you
decide what information should be included in the EAP.
1. Review the country's history of recent experiences and identify the
potential hazards and emergencies, and where appropriate, when they are
likely to occur, in the following areas:
- Natural disasters (hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, floods, fires,
- Environmental (nuclear hazards, pollution, water and air contaminants)
- Medical (accidents, injuries, epidemics)
- Technical (communications system failures, power failures)
- Socio-political (civil and political unrest, riots and demonstrations,
2. Review Program policy and any relevant site documents, such as those
- Medical emergencies and evacuations
- Family emergencies
- Safety and security precautions
- Country Evacuations
- Emergency travel and allowances
- Insurance and reimbursement for property damage or loss
- Emergency Action Planning
3. Assess internal resources and capabilities
- Staff and Faculty- know the strengths and capabilities of team members
and other staff (public contacts, information access, special skills, etc.)
- Equipment (fire protection, radios and communication systems, medical
equipment, emergency power supply, etc.)
- Transportation (vehicles, drivers, trucks, planes, helicopters, fuel,
- Facilities (meeting places, safe havens, shelters, storage areas for
food and water)
4. Identify external resources and outside contact groups
- Host country government officials and ministries
- Police and Fire Departments
- Host country military commanders and facilities
- Airport authorities and travel agents
- Telephone and other utility companies
- Hospitals and clinics
- International Red Cross and U.N. offices
- Other embassies or consulates
- Other U.S. study abroad programs/organizations
- Other local universities/colleges
- NAFSA: AIE/SECUSSA
- Other NGO's and volunteer agencies
- Missionary groups
2.1.3 DEVELOPING THE PLAN
Developing the plan involves:
- Drafting, revising and finalizing the document
- Developing supporting documents (checklists, maps, sample letters,
cables, administrative forms, reports, memorandum of agreements, etc.)
- Obtaining approval from appropriate authorities and collaborators
- Printing and distributing the final documents
Following is a sample format outline to guide you through the process
of drafting your Emergency Action Plan.
2.2 EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN OUTLINE
The EAP is usually a single document that contains an introduction, the
basic plan itself, modular extensions about specific crises, and any necessary
supporting documents. The introduction should:
- State the purpose of the Emergency Action Plan
- Identify the users of the EAP
- Designate where the EAP is kept
- Identify to whom the EAP had been distributed
- Briefly describe the development of the EAP and acknowledge its contributors
- Instruct on the use of the EAP
The EAP should be formatted in such a way that footers are included that
indicate the most current review date. Pagination allows for accuracy if
the plan is being discussed with administrator(s) or others and/or portions
need to be referenced or faxed. Pages should correspond with the table of
To guide you through the process of developing in this section, the Emergency
Action Plan Checklist is included. The checklist is also used by the program
administrator(s) to review the EAPs as they are revised and submitted each
2.2.2 Core Content
The following are only suggestions for the basic content of an Emergency
Action Plan. Each institution within each country/ region, etc. must choose
the most relevant information to present and the best way to present it.
a. Types of Emergencies Covered. The EAP can cover a range of
emergency situations including medical emergencies and evacuation, family
crises, accidents and injuries, physical and sexual assaults, natural disasters,
environmental hazards, civil unrest and political uprisings, or country
evacuations. These emergencies can affect single individuals or the entire
b. Roles and Responsibilities. It is important to define the chain
of command and decision making process in an emergency. This includes the
role of the on-site administrator, U.S. college or university/study abroad
program administrator(s), the US Embassy and others in responding to a crisis.
The functions and responsibilities of each staff member should be clearly
defined. It is most useful to refer to positions rather than individuals
in defining roles and responsibilities.
A Crisis Task Force (often composed of, but not limited to, the
members of the EAP planning team) should be established at this point. The
task force can help process information, develop contingency plans and provide:
- Liaison with the U.S. Embassy
- Liaison with the U.S. college or university/ study abroad program administrator(s)
at the U.S. home campus
- Communication with students
- Liaison with host country government, police, military, etc.
- Information gathering and processing (including media relations)
- Logistics coordination (transportation, supplies, housing, etc.)
- Financial and administrative advice
- Medical Advice
- Communication with parents, family, etc.
Finally, the students need to know what is expected of them as individuals
and members of a group.
c. Communication. Effective communication is the key to any crisis
management system. Experience indicates that effective communication must
operate on several levels: on-site program administrator, host country nationals,
country/regional, and U.S. -side institutional administrators. Creating
and developing these networks prior to an emergency reduces the chances
of breakdown and misunderstanding at the moment of crisis. Students can
play a major role in developing a working communications system by:
- Identifying the resources in their respective communities
- Developing liaison with other agencies, university study abroad programs
and host country nationals
- Keeping the office informed of their whereabouts
- Following procedures stipulated in the EAP
- Staying in touch with other students and using the buddy system
Explore all possible methods of communication, using local and national
resources. It is not unusual for telephones to malfunction during a number
of crisis scenarios.
Radio stations and government radio networks can be very helpful. Whatever
information is provided in the EAP should be complete, specific (who, what,
how) and up-to-date.
An agreed upon time and schedule for telephone or other contact should
also be established and maintained. The frequency of contact will depend
on the acuity of the situation and developing circumstances. It is not only
important to determine who, where and how communications should take place
but what kind of information is needed and the relative urgency of the message.
Checking to see if the message was accurate is also very important, especially
under conditions of stress. Having the person repeat or write down the message assures better accuracy and reliability.
Sending messages via a third party to the U.S. college or university/study
abroad program in crisis situations is also important. When sending an emergency
message through a third party, keep the following in mind:
In any emergency contact where an operator or message taker is involved,
please be prepared to provide the following information:
- Your name
- Where you are
- Nature of the emergency
- Tel. Number and where administrator(s) may contact you
- Until when/for how long
- When you will call back if you have not been called
Be sure to stress that this is an urgent or emergency situation!
The responsibility of communicating with the families of the students
can rest with various administrators. As soon as the evacuation is confirmed,
the families of all students should be contacted. It is important to maintain
regular contact with students' families throughout the crisis, apprising
them of developments as they occur and providing appropriate support.
d. Travel and Transportation. Information on travel methods and
routes must also be as specific as possible (overland, air, sea, private,
commercial, and/or military). Maps demarcating pick-up points, potential
landing sites for aircraft and/or helicopter, and estimated travel times
under normal circumstances should also be included. Guidance about border
crossing should also be provided, crossing and making contact with appropriate
authorities in third country. Most importantly, alternative methods of travel
and routes must be presented and prioritized in the event that the usual
routes are no longer safe or feasible. Student and staff sites should be
clearly located on the maps.
e. Safety and Health Concerns. The EAP should address basic safety
and health precautions, including information about:
- Safe water and food supplies stocked at safe havens
- Medications and first aid supplies
- Safe shelter
- Dealing with military, police, other officials
f. Administration. The EAP should specify what administrative
responsibilities require attention in the event of a crisis. To fulfill
these responsibilities it is recommended to have response systems in place
before the crisis occurs. The Administrator should:
- Keep student rosters up-to-date
- Prepare student withdrawal documents
- Procure lodging and food supply for assembly location
- Assure adequate fuel supply and road worthiness of vehicle
- Coordinate evacuation transport with Emergency Action Committee
- Collect inventory of student personal effects left in country (Attachment
- Prepare travel plans
- Provide travel advances to students, staff
g. Contingencies. Even the best laid plans cannot factor in all
possible contingencies. Yet probable scenarios that impact on communications
(no telephone lines), transportation (public transport strike), or coordination
(capital city destabilized) should be addressed.
2.2.3 Planning for and Managing Evacuations
Most Peace Corps programs use a three stage model to identify alert status
based on the standard established by the US Embassy. Stages should be clearly
defined, along with the criteria for progression to the next stage in coordination
with appropriate college or university/ study abroad administrator(s) and
the Embassy. Specific action plans should be developed for each stage so
that students know what to do and what to expect at each step.
||Standfast-impending emergency, remain at site|
||Consolidation-go to prearranged assembly point, prepare for withdrawal|
||Evacuation-leave as a group for safe haven|
It is absolutely essential to be clear about:
- How students will be notified of what stage is in effect and when it
changes (specific languages that can be transmitted over public airwaves
that alerts the students without creating further panic)
- What they must do (or not do) at each stage
- What to bring, what to leave behind
- What to say to local nationals, friends, colleagues
- Main office procedures for notifying students' families
- How to prepare (stock supplies, pack evacuation bag, etc.)
- Instructions on how to move form one site to another
- Alternatives/contingencies if plan fails (communications, travel, safe
2.2.4 Planning for and Managing Specific Crises
These could be prepared as separate stages or "pull-outs" to
cover different types of emergencies or disasters such as:
- Medical emergencies (Attachment II)
- Family emergencies
- Accident and injuries
- Student death
- Physical or sexual assault
- Political/civil unrest
- Natural disasters (hurricane, floods, earthquakes, fires)
"Pull-outs" have the advantage of being readily accessible
and containing situation-specific information and action plans. Countries
that are at high risk for certain types of natural disasters (hurricanes,
earthquakes, nuclear accidents) should consult the appropriate local department
for emergency preparedness and obtain technical assistance in preparing
for and responding to these hazards.
Checklists are invaluable in planning and implementing an Emergency Action
Plan. They assure completeness and greatly increase efficiency. The following
checklists were found to be essential or very helpful by the Peace Corps:
- Rosters of all students and their addresses
- List of passport numbers, expiration dates and location of passport
for each student
- Names of students with special medical needs
- Complete information on assembly points, who should go where and when
- Maps and locators for each student (Attachment IV)
- Contacts where each student is housed and for each excursion
- Maps, travel routes and modes of transportation from each site to assembly
points and capital or evacuation point
- Communication networks (telephone numbers, radio locations, frequencies,
operators, hours of operation, etc.)
- Emergency telephone numbers for local police, fire, hospital, Embassy,
- List of other agencies, missionaries, government offices, private citizens
who could be a resource during an emergency (including names, addresses
and telephone numbers)
- Locators for all staff (addresses, telephone numbers, maps)
- List of food/water/emergency supplies to be kept in student homes,
study abroad centers, assembly sites and safe havens
- List of essential items to include in an emergency evacuation pack
- "To do" list if student has to leave home in a hurry
- Schedules for testing and updating EAP
2.2.6 Supporting Documents
Supporting documents may include:
EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN CHECKLIST
- Budget for developing, testing, and maintaining an operational EAP
- Policy statements from the college or university/study abroad program
relevant to emergency planning and evacuations
- Sample communications, letters and cables
- EAP summary pull-out for each student for quick reference (this can
be included in the medical kit)
Table of contents, appendix
Purpose of Statement
Types of emergencies
Staff roles and responsibilities
Student roles and responsibilities
Embassy warden system
Procedures for three phases (standfast,
consolidation, and evacuation)
Collaborative Arrangements with
Cooperation with embassy and
Emergency communications system
Alternative communication methods
and contacts in event of telephone
failure (e.g., other agencies with radios)
Transportation methods and routes
Strategies for localized emergencies
Short version (2-3 pages)
Safety precautions for specific
emergencies, i.e. natural disasters
Standard forms, i.e. student contact
sheet, vehicle emergency supply list
Student rosters and locators,
Emergency telephone numbers and
radio frequencies and locations
Assembly points and how
to get there
Local resources (hospitals,
clinics, police, Embassy officials,
missionaries, other study abroad
programs, local university
Emergency supplies at
assembly points, housing,
study abroad centers, vehicle)
List of other resources
(medical evac. guidelines,
student handbook, etc.)
Instructions if students must
cross border and points of
contact in neighboring countries
How it is used
Where is it kept
Who has copies
How it is presented/used in training
|| last date
|| next date|
|Testing of plan
Updating of plan
2.3 OPERATIONALIZING THE PLAN
Operationalizing the plan involves more than implementing it at the time
of the crisis. It includes:
- Informing the staff and students about the plan
- Securing the resources (people and things) necessary to implement the
- Integrating the plan into normal program operations (budget, reporting
requirements, student and staff training, etc.)
- Orienting and training staff and students on use of the plan
- Developing a system for testing, updating and revising the plan
In order to avoid the "paper plan syndrome" the Emergency Action
Plan must be put to use through training and periodic testing. Everyone
will require some sort of training on the Emergency Action Plan, but one
person or committee should be given the responsibility for planning, implementing
and evaluating the training program.
The purpose of the training is to:
- Maintain an appropriate level of safety/security awareness
- Familiarize the staff and students with the plan
- Make sure everyone understand their part in the plan (roles and responsibilities)
- Become familiar with the mechanics, equipment and procedures necessary
to implement the plan (e.g., use of radios, first aid equipment and alarm
- Convert an abstract plan into concrete actions
- Provide an opportunity for questions and concerns
At the end of training, trainees should know:
- Whom to contact
- How to make contact
- What to do
- Where to go
- What is expected of them
Staff training about crisis management should occur at all levels, with
personnel in the U.S. and abroad. Once in country or on-site, staff needs
to develop specific knowledge and familiarity with people, equipment, geography
and procedures in order to implement the plan.
Student orientation most often is initiated in the pre-departure orientation
program in the U.S. and reviewed at the on-site orientation abroad. However,
each program needs to determine who receives the training, who does the
training, when and where it should occur, and how to best get the information
There are a few basic concepts that might prove helpful in designing
effective training (training officers will be extremely helpful here:
- Make sure you have their attention (avoid distractions)
- Repeat key concepts (repetition is the key to retention)
- Make it relevant (indicate how EAP affects them personally)
- Translate abstract concepts into concrete actions (use simulations,
- Participatory learning is more effective than passive learning
- Review the EAP after critical incidents when interest and motivation
are high (timing is crucial)
- Use senior staff as trainers (the best way to learn something is to
2.3.2 Testing and Rehearsal
Testing and rehearsal serve a training purpose as well as a check on
the appropriateness and efficacy of the EAP. It can range form a simple
review of procedures to a full scale exercise. While conducting a full scale
exercise may often prove impractical, many countries have implemented a
system of testing certain components of the EAP such as:
- Student locator system
- Communication systems and contingency plans
- Medical alerts
- Resource inventory and testing
- Safety and security tests
- Simulations and on-site drills
- Information gathering and processing
Regardless of how the testing is done, the important thing is to DO IT!
The results should be documented and used to revise, update or reinforce
the existing EAP.
3. DURING THE CRISIS: ACTION
When a crisis occurs, adrenaline begins to pump and energy levels
mount. It is important to channel this energy into constructive course so
as to avoid conflict and confusion. Delegating functions and tasks into
which staff members and students can channel energy include:
- Gate keeping--ensuring orderly access to crisis management team
- Material support--ensuring food, water, stationery, etc. are on hand
- Emotional support--providing relief and support to crisis workers as stress increases
- Recording--maintaining a daily log and updates as the crisis develops
The optimum leadership style will be determined by the personal characteristics of the team
leader and what the crisis dictates. Successful crisis team leaders have been those who have been open,
supportive, flexible and still decisive and directive when the moment warrants. The ability to manage varying
levels of conflict-among staff and students, with the media, and demands from U.S. college or university/study abroad
program--will be essential.
As the crisis develops, the country staff will constantly assess the nature and extent of the emergency. If
withdrawal appears imminent, the on-site administrator(s) must devote more attention to ensuring the safety of
students, staff and dependents.
- Inform the on-site administrator and home campus college or university/study abroad program regarding the crisis
situation and student safety and whereabouts. The initial communication should include general comments as to the
safety factor, plus specifics as to student whereabouts. For those students out of the town, the following format
The following Students are away form their assigned posts:
- Seek guidance/advice from the Embassy on evacuation decisions;
- Establish a central communications contact, coordinating communications with all agencies involved;
- Identify student responsibilities and provide them with descriptions of specific emergency evacuation conditions
- Communicate specific instructions to students and staff (in writing where appropriate);
- Coordinate up-country transport of students and their belongings where conditions permit such travel;
- Ensure lodging and support arrangements at pre-disembarkation points;
- Coordinate planning and travel arrangements to safe haven countries with US Embassy and Region;
- Limit movement of personnel to essential travel associated with emergency;
- Emphasize the importance of staying in familiar territory during an emergency;
- Maintain a daily log of actions taken.
As students depart for a safe haven country, the following information about each student should be transmitted to
the evacuation support team:
- Students health information, medical reports and necessary medical supplies
- Full name, passport number, place and date of passport issuance; and
- A statement of property losses incurred in the emergency
The respective roles and responsibilities of the various home offices should be clear.
3.1.1 CLOSING A STUDY ABROAD CENTER DURING EMERGENCY EVACUATION
If, as a crisis develops and withdrawal of students appears imminent, the administrator(s) should attempt to follow
a study abroad center emergency closing plan.
Advise students of need to close bank accounts and settle debts if evacuation takes place (civil disorder or natural
disaster may preclude such action);
3.1.2 SUPPORTING CRISIS WORKER
During an emergency, crisis task force members and crisis workers function at high intensity for long hours. Symptoms
of mental and physical fatigue may go unnoticed until people reach exhaustion. Foreign service national staff, concerned
for their families, the effects on their country, and the prospect of perhaps losing their jobs, in addition to the
increased stress of coping with Student support matters during a crisis, are at particularly high risk.
- "Flameout" is a rapid onset of mental and physical exhaustion resulting form long hours of intense
activity. Work efficiency, judgment and efficacy are all negatively affected. Rest and temporary relief from duty will
usually bring recovery.
- "Burnout" occurs with prolonged stress and results in chronic fatigue, apathy, changes in attitudes,
a loss in self-esteem and depression.
In addition to the physical and mental stress of crisis work, the crisis worker may be subjected to a number of other
- Personal losses from the crisis situation
- Job stress related to role ambiguity, policy conflicts, communications breakdown, lack of training and resources.
- Traumatic exposure to violence, destruction, death; and
- Grief and outrage at the course of events including mission failures, and human error.
During the operation of a crisis task force, a number of strategies can be used to minimize flameout or burnout.
- A "buddy system" in which peers monitor each other's stress reactions for early warning signs and provide support;
- Close adherence to a schedule of shifts;
- Schedule of periods of rest, food and exercise, and light recreation;
- Any overriding personal concerns (such as whereabouts of family) must be addressed and if necessary, the person should
be relieved form duty to take care of these concerns; and
- If the symptoms persist or increase, removal from the crisis scene and professional counseling may be necessary.
According to the Peace Corps, the U.S. Department of State has an excellent video titled Crisis Work-Crisis Worker.
It offers a useful discussion about the special problems of the crisis worker and gives very specific guidelines on
remedial or preventive strategies. A copy of the video should be available through the U.S. Embassy.
4. AFTER THE CRISIS: RETURNING TO NORMAL
Regardless of the nature and extent of a crisis, it usually has an impact
on everyone. The students and staff in the country are profoundly affected
by every tragedy and unforeseen crisis that occurs to one of their numbers.
The host country nationals and counterparts who work with the students and
staff are just as deeply touched by events and will require emotional support
and stress relief. The administration and staff of the college or university/study
abroad program, students, and family members and friends are all part of
the larger community affected by a crisis. All these connections will need
continued attention as you return to normal after the crisis. The timely
support to students and staff in the immediate aftermath of a crisis is
Some form of debriefing is absolutely necessary for the students and
staff after relief from duty or at the conclusion of the crisis event. Critical
Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) is an organized approach to managing stress
response in those who have experienced a crisis situation. It is used with
individuals or groups and consists of three basic components:
- Helping crisis survivors vent feelings and assess the intensity of
the stress response;
- Instruction, support and reassurance by the facilitator and/or other
- Mobilization of resources and return to normal roles with a plan for
further assistance if needed.
There are four types of CISD. Each has its own application but the common
goal is to provide support and minimize the development of abnormal stress
in emergency or crisis survivors.
4.1.1 The On-Scene or Near-Scene Demobilization is the briefest
form of CISD. It is a continuous process conducted during the crisis as
shifts change or natural breaks in the action occur. An observer (mental
health professional, chaplain, other support personnel) functions as an
advisor at the scene of the action and during brief rest periods. The observer
should not be involved directly in managing the crisis but is there primarily
to support staff and students. The observer also assesses and reports any
signs of severe stress and recommends appropriate action.
The demobilization process aims to:
- Mitigate the immediate impact of the event
- Accelerate the recovery process
- Assess the need for debriefing and other support
- Reduce cognitive, emotional, and physiological symptoms
4.1.2 The Initial Defusing is the group process (30-45 minutes)
provided immediately after a traumatic event, once the individuals are disengaged
from the on-scene operations.
- process of the defusing aims to:
- Establish non-threatening social environment
- Allow rapid ventilation of stressful experience
- Equalize access to facts and information
- Restore cognitive processing of event
- Provide information for stress survival
- Affirm value of individuals
- Establish linkages for additional support
- Develop expectancies for the future
The defusing components are as follows:
- Introduce facilitator(s)
- State Purpose
- Invite voluntary participation
- Establish ground rules (not therapy, not investigation)
- When possible assure confidentiality (no notes, recording, etc.)
- Describe process
- Offer additional support
- Ask individuals to describe what just occurred
- Answer questions of clarification
- Review experiences and reactions
- Assess need for more help
- Reassure participants, as necessary
- Accept/summarize their exploration
- Normalize experiences and reactions
- Teach multiple stress survival skills
- Advise diet & nutrition, alcohol/caffeine avoidance
- Pay attention to rest & relationships
- Recommend recreation & exercise
- Offer handshake and comment to each participant
- Provide one-on-one follow-up
- Determine whether to proceed with debriefing
The defusing process may provide the necessary support to groups or individuals,
however it may happen that the defusing will reveal that need for further
support. Indicators that additional support may be necessary include:
- Intense emotions, unusual behavior
- Unfinished business
- A sense (sometimes subtle) of incompleteness
- Excessive silence
4.1.3 The Formal CISD is a guided discussion
(2-3 hrs.) of traumatic event occurring 48-72 hrs after the event that aims
Prevent stress dysfunction
- Screen and prioritize individual needs
- Identify areas for follow-up support and referrals
The CSID process is delineated into seven distinct stages. It is important
to follow all the stages in order to realize optimal effectiveness. The
CISD moves the participants form the cognitive level (less threatening to
express) through the emotional level (essential to explore and address)
and back to the cognitive level (where the participants find comfort). A
skilled facilitator or mental health professional is necessary because of
the intensity of the emotional content that is often elicited. The seven
stages of the CISD process are as follows:
||Introduce intervention team members; explain process; set expectations|
||Have each participant describe the nature of their participation, from a
cognitive perspective "What did you see/hear/do?"|
||Solicit cognitive responses to: "What |
aspect held the most negative impact
for you?"-transition from cognitive
to emotional processing.
||Solicit emotional reactions to or consequences of cognitive responses given
in Stage 3. "How has this experience affected you?"|
||Transition from emotional domain |
back to cognitive. "What lessons could be learned from this experience?"
or "What is something positive that you will take away from this experience?"
||Educate participants to normal reactions (not necessarily shared by everyone)
and teach basic stress mangagement, if applicable.|
||Summarize experience with emphasis on positive learning aspects.|
Before debriefing it is important for the intervention team to:
- Review case documents, incident reports, press clippings, etc
- Circulate among the group in order to establish informal contacts,
study relationships and individual behaviors, and gather additional background
- Hold strategy meeting to agree on focus, roles and responsibilities.
After debriefing it is important for the intervention team to:
- Make one-on-one contact with all participants, inviting those deemed
needful of further individual support to attend follow-up session.
- Conduct post-debriefing review with team:
- "How did we do?"
- "What did we learn?"
- Coordinate any follow-up
- Check-in with each team member, "Are you okay?"
- If necessary, write post-action report keeping it general, ensuring
confidentiality, and focusing on lessons learned.
The issues likely to emerge for students and staff in the aftermath of
an evacuation or program suspension are:
- Coping with the loss of personal belongings;
- Lack of opportunity to say good-bye to friends;
- Inability to bring closure to projects/ coursework;
- Dealing with the sudden need to plan next steps;
- Dealing with previous experience of loss and disappointment that the
situation may evoke;
- Loss of control of daily activities and immediate future;
- Abandoning previous goals and aspirations;
- Concerns about status, earning academic credit, refunds, etc.
- Feelings of powerlessness, being manipulated.
The following actions have proven useful to Peace Corps Volunteers who
have survived a crisis or had to terminate service prematurely. It may be
useful for study abroad students forced to leave a program early.
- Share the experience and feelings generated by the crisis to help with
the healing process and prevent delayed stress symptoms. The sharing has
proven most effective when it takes place shortly after the event.
- Focus on the time spent in country and what was learned and experienced.
- Realize that even if they are fortunate enough to return to the country,
much may have changed. Social relations and the way host country nationals
in general view them may change as a result of the crisis, especially those
political in nature. Students should be prepared for the differences they
may encounter upon return.
- Acknowledge that the recovery process is hard and takes time. Everyone
will progress at his/her own pace.
- Take time out before making new commitments.
- Turn to family and friends for support over the long haul.
4.1.4 The Follow-up CISD is often not necessary but can occur
several weeks or months after the event to help with closure and re-entry.
This process focuses on achieving closure, attending to unfinished business
and looking ahead to a return to "normality" for students and
4.2 RETURNING TO NORMAL
Once a crisis event (evacuation, program suspension) has passed, the
decision whether to return to the site may arise. Despite the appearance
that a critical situation has returned to normal, the crisis may have precipitated
many changes, including:
- How host country nationals view United States or individual staff or
- The social relations among local individuals, agencies, groups;
- The level of functioning of essential services (water, electricity,
public transport, etc.);
- The relative security of once-safe regions of the country;
- The sensitiveness and reactions of individuals or groups to questions
or innovations; or
- The viability and/or appropriateness of established programs.
A re-assessment of the post environment and general conditions should
be undertaken by the post management team. A determination of the current
site can be made through general observations and discussion with the on-site
administrator(s), local officials, and other study abroad programs in the
area. The decision to return or not to return and the reasoning that supports
that decision should be made clear to students and staff, with ample opportunity
to discuss concerns and possible consequences.
While getting back to everyday routine tasks is an important step in the
return to "normality", one should expect and prepare for symptomatic
reactions to the post-crisis reality. Some reactions to watch for are:
- Emotional letdown
- Task dysfunction
A re-entry program that provides a supportive forum for staff and students
shortly after a return to site should provide a forum to discuss and resolve
program and adjustment issues.
5.1 STUDENT PROPERTY INVENTORY CHECKLIST
5.2 Sample Medical Evacuation Procedures
_____1. Consult on-site administrator, local doctor, central administrative
office, insurance representative, 24-hour hotline to obtain pre-approval
for medical evacuation (medevac).
_____ 2. If administrator office concurs medevac is necessary, determine
a. How soon medevac should occur.
b. If medical or nonmedical accompaniment of patient is necessary.
c. If patient is stable enough to transport to home country/state or will
need to have medical care in country abroad with appropriate medical facilities.
_____ 3. Have college or university/study abroad program arrange transportation/medical
_____ 4. Inform administrators of any special needs in itinerary such
b. Special seating arrangements (stretcher, first class)
c. Special airport arrangements (wheelchair, stretcher, ambulance)
d. Special airline medevac or airline's permission in advance to fly
(Usually necessary if you want to bump another passenger, if stretcher needed,
if medically accompanied, if IV necessary, or if any other visibly obvious,
serious medical problems.)
_____ 5. Ensure the patient has passport and visa needed for departure
from abroad and entry into USA or country enroute. If passport is unavailable,
contact US Embassy consul to make another passport or arrange for proper
_____ 6. When patient's travel schedule is obtained from administrators,
follow-up with the on-site administrator and college or university/ study
abroad program. Inform administrator if student wants parents or family
notified and /or review pre-departure form to see if student has pre-approved
_____ 7. Brief patient about medevac procedure going over medevac checklist
and reviewing standard medevac handout with student.
_____ 8. Prepare patient's medical chart and ensure that all results
are translated into English. Instruct patient to carry chart, etc in hand
luggage. Include any x-ray or lab results.
_____ 9. Make sure patient has any necessary medications or supplies
he/she will need along the way.
_____ 10. If patient is traveling alone and will need to overnight in
a city enroute, remind patient that airline is usually responsible for providing
food and lodging while the patient is enroute to destination. Have patient
check at airline desk for lodging voucher.
_____ 11. If patient is traveling with accompaniment, determine if patient
will need to go directly to hospital when arriving at destination.
_____ 12. If direct hospital evaluation/admission will be needed, call
administrator to determine which hospital and consultants will be used and
go there directly from the airport.
PROCEDURE FOR MEDICAL EVACUATION WITH EMERGENCY EVACUATION ASSISTANCE
1. Contact the company as soon as the decision to medevac the
patient is taken.
a. Contact company by telephone
b. If phones are down, telex
c. If all of above fail, call the U.S. college or university /study abroad
program immediately and ask them to contact the insurance company. Be sure
to give all information needed
2. Give insurance company the following information:
a. Patient name
d. Medical problem
e. Medical equipment needed in transport (e.g., blood, oxygen)
f. Medical personnel needed in transport (e.g., anesthesiologist, nurse,
g. Name and phone number of local attending physician
h. Place to which you want to medevac patient
i. Central administration and on-site telephone numbers and fax number, Embassy number
j. State U.S. Guarantee of payment: Fiscal Data
k. Whether someone will accompany the patient
3. Develop a medevac checklist in consultation with the insurance
company for procedures /practice in case of medical evacuation.
5.3 EMERGENCY SITE LOCATOR FORM
LOCATION OF NEAREST TELEPHONE, PHONE #, NAME OF PROPRIETOR
SPECIAL CONTACTS & PHONE #'S (BOUTIQUES, MISSIONARIES, GAS STATIONS):
POST OFFICE AND PHONE #
NEAREST GOV'T OFFICIAL AND PHONE #
OTHER STUDY ABROAD PROGRAMS WITH WHOM YOU COLLABORATE, LOCATIONS, NAME
OF CONTACTS AND PHONE #'S
STUDENT'S LOCATION AND PHONE # (IF APPLICABLE)
NEAREST OF PHYSICIAN AND PHONE #
Next of kin (in US):
Phone #: (home) (business)
In case of emergency-[ ] do [ ] do not-notify the above person.
(Adapted from the Crisis Management Handbook: A Guide for Overseas
Staff, Peace Corps Volunteer