How can international offices improve their preparedness in the event of a crisis? Read on to discover five top tips and resources for international offices.
It’s clear that having a crisis management plan in the event of an emergency helps institutions to respond quickly and effectively to a number of different crises and scenarios.
It not only provides a set of emergency response procedures and protocols to follow, but can also include standardized templates, forms, and other documents to support communication with key stakeholders during turbulent times.
Today, many universities, as well as relevant departments and faculty, play a key role in supporting those on mobility programs so they can be prepared for unexpected situations.
With safety and security being the primary concern in the event of a crisis, it’s important to have risk management strategies and response procedures in place when such situation arises.
1. Prepare in advance
The time to deal with a crisis is not when it happens, but long before.
While it may not be possible to plan for all contingencies involving students and staff abroad, having a crisis management policy in place before a crisis strikes is increasingly important to minimize the potential damage.
Manchester Metropolitan University offers a useful example of the process used to manage an emergency or incident.
According to the institution’s Incident Response and Crisis Management Policy, university staff adopt three different plans to ensure the correct protocols are being followed as a response to an incident; the incident response plan; crisis management plan; and business continuity plan.
The university further defines the three stages of this process as follows:
- The incident response plan: “Will focus on the initial response to an emergency to prevent loss of life and minimize injury and property damage”
- The crisis management plan: “Will focus on the overall coordination of the response to a crisis, with the goal of avoiding or minimizing damage to the university’s reputation and ability to operate”
- The business continuity plan: “Will focus on the capability of the university to resume urgent or priority activities at acceptable pre-defined levels following the disruptive incident.”
From the international office perspective, protecting exchange programs and participants with a pre–arranged emergency response enables staff to act quickly and effectively, when an incident arises.
2. Make the plan all-encompassing
Risk management needs to be thought as a comprehensive strategy, rather than just a checklist or series of tasks. If it is developed at the institutional level, it contributes to converging the requirements and perspectives of all relevant departments, not only the international office.
A comprehensive strategy can help international officers to establish orderly, all-encompassing processes, procedures, and communications that will be required in an emergency response.
From a mobility standpoint, some of the key stakeholders that should be involved in risk management planning includes international officers, program directors, the finance department, faculty, and international partners.
It’s best practice to have a written crisis management plan that can be consulted, revised, and updated on an ongoing basis. Finally, make sure that all the people involved understand it and can implement it.
3. Evaluate routinely and regularly
Typically, a crisis management plan will incorporate an emergency response, crisis communications, and any specific procedures that should be followed in the event of a crisis.
However, international officers should also consider that the factors contributing to a crisis can change over time, therefore it is essential that the crisis management plan is evaluated routinely to ensure that there are emergency response procedures and protocols for all sorts of different contingencies and scenarios.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought severe limitations to universities, international offices, and students globally, including travel restrictions, nation-wide lockdowns, and university campus closures.
4. Involve relevant departments
In the event of a crisis, most staff will have to be involved in crisis recovery, so it’s important that they are prepared and understand the roles they will play.
Naturally, some staff will be more involved than others in planning for certain types of crisis. However, even then, keeping everyone apprised of how to continue day–to–day operational processes in the event of a crisis is also critically important.
5. Create a communication hub
To enable international officers to share important information with partners, students, and faculty staff, it’s good practice to set up and maintain a dedicated area of the international office website for emergency guidance and information.
Any resources, such as news, reports, policies, statuses, and other information, specific to international students and partners, can be accessed here in a clear and compelling format.
This resource hub can be updated at any time, for any type of crisis, and can be easily accessed from any device. Importantly, students can be directed to this hub and the latest information shared through the institution’s social media channels.