Recent Earthquakes Draw Attention to Travel Safety Planning for Kids
FALLS CHURCH, Va., March 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — “There has been a significant increase of children traveling, for school or volunteer activities, in the last few years despite the economic downturn,” says Kate Goggin, author of the new iPhone app, Backpack Kids: The Safety Planning Checklist for Overseas Travel. “While many school systems require school board approval of foreign travel with children, the actual trip planning falls to the individual leader and there are no national guidelines to follow. Parents, teachers and volunteer leaders need to know more about emergency planning before they allow kids to depart the U.S.”
The headlines are full of young people who have met tragedy overseas recently including the Lynn College students in Haiti, Natalie Holloway, and the survivors of the Indonesian tsunami. One important tip for trip planners is to register at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the destination country, before departure. Registration is an easy online process and allows the State Department to notify travelers in case of emergency, and also expedites communication with family members since contact information is included in the process. This step is often overlooked or misunderstood and leads to situations like the Lynn College students faced.
In the case of the Lynn College students, they, like many other groups, had not registered, and the State Department did not know where to look for them. According to Brian Skoloff’s Associated Press story then, State Department Spokesman, Gordon Duguid, said, “Given that most Americans do not register with the embassy…it is often impossible to say in these situations how many are missing.”
Parents and leaders need to know the importance of registration and other items on the Backpack Kids checklist, such as medical evacuation (medevac) insurance. When injured children are not able to complete their scheduled journey in a foreign country, a medevac is required. According to the State Department, the average medevac costs from $50,000 to $100,000. Insurance is an important basic feature of all international trip planning.
“International travel is an assumed expectation as learning becomes more and more global,” says Goggin. According to the recent Open Doors report by the Institute of International Education, American students are headed to less traditional and less expensive places such as China, India, Japan, South Africa and Argentina. “That’s not necessarily good news on the safety front,” according to Goggin. “Many of those countries do not have the same medical standard we know in the U.S., if a child becomes ill or is injured in those locations, parents, teachers and volunteer leaders need to plan ahead to know where to get help and how to get kids home safely. “
The importance of registration and medevac insurance are two key items on the safety planning checklist in Backpack Kids. Goggin knows from personal and professional experience about safety for kids abroad. She is one of those parents who received a late-night call from an emergency room overseas. Her son, a short-term English teacher in South Korea, was injured in a car accident in 2007. Additionally she worked at the U.S. State Department, and heard the weekly cases of unaccompanied American children injured or killed abroad. “I learned so much from those experiences and the subsequent research I’ve gathered; I want to share it to help others.”
Link to iPhone App information: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/backpack-kids-the-safety-planning/id356161333?mt=8
Backpack Kids website: http://www.BackpackKids.org
Kate Goggin website: http://www.KateGoggin.com
Kate Goggin blog: http://www.KateGoggin.com/blog/
NOTE: Backpack Kids is also available as a .PDF document for non-Apple users through the Backpackkids.org website.
Kate Goggin, former publisher of The Art of International Living newsletter, has extensive int’l experience including assignments at The National Press Club in Washington and several government agencies including the U.S. State Department. She has lived in both Eastern and Western Europe and raised two sons while living overseas. She is also the co-author of the research study At Home Abroad: How Design and Architecture Influence Overseas Living, to be released by Dr. Anne Copeland of The Interchange Institute on March 4-6, 2010 at the Families in Global Transition Conference in Houston, TX.