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CIEE’s “Emergency Action Plan” Prepares Study Abroad Programs for Hurricanes

CIEE’s “Emergency Action Plan” prepares study abroad programs for hurricanes

Timothy Keene ‘18

Staff Writer


There is no doubt that the recent hurricanes have caused considerable damage in the areas affected, but the damage is also felt by study abroad programs in these areas. “We hope for the best, but plan for the worst…” said Bill Bull, Vice President of Risk Management, Study Abroad at CIEE, The Council on International Educational Exchange. In the wake of 2 major hurricanes that devastated the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and many other Latin American countries, Bull made time to talk about the extensive planning and coordination that him and his colleagues do to prepare for when natural disasters happen.

When Hurricane Maria hit the Dominican Republic, classes there were suspended with the plan to put the study abroad  program on hold and resume classes when the time is right. In the case of Puerto Rico their situation is much more severe so classes were suspended for the time being while cleanup efforts are underway with CIEE staff on site relaying information back to their home base.

Bull stated, “…in the past relocation has been a possibility and if the situation warrants it the option is on the table.”  With these unfortunate situations putting classes on hold, schools have the option to push back exam periods to accommodate for the time needed to be taken off.

An extensive plan called “Emergency Action Plan” is for students to follow if they find themselves in an emergency like a natural disaster. Bull explained how CIEE has a staff member in the country on site with the students that serve as coordinators. CIEE and schools have a direct line of communication that can send and receive information and serve as a guide for students.

Students also take part in an online pre-departure training sessions. Once they arrive, they undergo more specific training to fully prepare them for their stay.  

CIEE has had meetings ensure these plans cover everything that could go wrong so when the time comes, all they have to do is follow the plan put in place. The plans are reviewed yearly to ensure nothing has changed and to see if anything can be improved. After a natural disaster happens such as the recent hurricanes, the plans are also reviewed to see how effective it was and changes are made if needed.

When talking about natural disasters there is a lot of media coverage about what is happening and how it is affecting the population of the region. If you or someone you know is one of these people, or even if you just feel like you want to help, there are resources that you should make yourself aware of. The government-run website“Travel.state.gov” has an emergency section that has different types of information and covers a lot of the study abroad emergencies that can, and do, happen. On a lighter note this website has a study abroad section that has before you go abroad information about basic study abroad tips as well as detailed information about your specific destination if you already decided where you want to travel. Be aware, be prepared, and safe travels.