If you are planning an overseas missions trip it pays to be very well-prepared and aware before embarking to ensure your trip is as safe as possible for everyone involved. This includes researching the regions you will be travelling to, identifying potential risks, taking precautions, planning for emergencies, and ensuring there is adequate insurance cover in place for financial protection.
Do your research:
- Security – safety is paramount so one of the first things you need to do is to check for security risks and official warnings (such as unrest, crime patterns or terrorism) which can be done through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Smart Traveller website here. Bear in mind that if you intend to travel to an area designated “Do Not Travel” by DFAT you are unlikely to be covered by insurance.
- Culture and local customs – this includes such matters as dress, behaviour, local customs, whether taking photos is permissible, and so on.
- Itinerary – develop a clear, documented itinerary for your trip and ensure all team members are provided with a copy. This can also be registered at the Smart Traveller website so that family members can be contacted if you are in an area affected by a disaster or catastrophic event. More information is available here.
- Communications – this includes designating someone in your team to be responsible for communications, and creating an ongoing communications plan.
- Emergency planning – develop a plan for emergencies, such as where to go for help, actions to take, the location of hospitals, embassies and so on.
- Health screenings – all personnel should have medical screening prior to the trip, and preferably dental check-ups as well.
- Health precautions – includes appropriate vaccinations and taking along adequate prescribed medicines as well as details of the medical conditions and / or allergies of any team members.
- Awareness – it’s important to be aware of disease risks in the regions you are travelling to, and to learn to recognise signs and symptoms of sickness. If possible, include a team member on the trip who has medical expertise and experience.
All personnel who are joining you on the trip should be properly briefed and trained regarding customs and behaviour, safety, security and health risks, and be provided with a copy of the itinerary and plans.
Adequate travel insurance is vital for your financial protection. The CCI business travel policy provides cover for trips 50kms beyond the place of residence or business and for up to 180 days. The policy includes cover for accidental death, sickness, bodily injury, medical evacuation, kidnap, hijacks, property losses, personal liability, rental vehicle excess and various other events.
Insurance is excluded for certain regions, including the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Chad, Afghanistan and others, and also for any regions designated “Do Not Travel” by DFAT. At the time of writing this includes Libya, Burundi, and Syria.
During the trip
It’s important during your trip to exercise common sense and a degree of vigilance. This includes the following areas:
- Moving around – stay within the group as much as possible. It’s also important to stick to safe locations and to be aware of areas to avoid.
- Passports – keep your passport in a safe place. A hotel safe is a good place for this if available. If you are not carrying your passport while out, take a photocopy with you.
- Cash – carry a minimum of cash and keep your wallet close to your person (not in your back pocket!).
- Dress sense – avoid wearing an expensive watch or jewellery or any other item that could put you at risk of being robbed.
- Heed advice – listen to your host regarding safety and local customs, and keep abreast of any new official security or health warnings.
- Driving safety – when driving make sure to keep the doors locked.
- Records – keep a detailed documented record of the trip.
- Customs / restrictions– be aware of and comply with quarantine restrictions on your return trip.
- De-briefing – some team members, especially those that are new to mission trips, may be affected mentally and / or physically by their experiences. Make sure to provide team members with the time they need to process their experiences, and to provide any assistance, support or treatment required.
The above isn’t really as complex and involved as it sounds. Essentially, successful overseas trips are really just a matter of sound research and planning, adequate insurance cover, heeding security warnings, and applying a good dose of common sense!
To help you get started, Smart Traveller has provided a very useful ‘handy hints’ booklet covering visas, health, communications, customs and other issues. You can download this from the DFAT website here.
Tags: health & safety