Personal safety begins with awareness. Awareness begins with a clear understanding of one’s attitudes, values, self-esteem, personal strengths and limitations. What does your attitude, dress, and body language say about your vulnerability? It continues with insight into the host culture and environment – local attitudes toward strangers, gender perceptions, values, mores and means of communicating. In order to be alert to potential dangers and risks to your well-being, you need to be aware of what is going on in your immediate environment. Study. Observe. Ask.
The CDC Survival Guide lists steps to take and issues to be aware of while traveling such as:
- Pay attention to your health during your trip.
- Use sunscreen and insect repellent as directed.
- Be careful about food and water.
- Try not to take risks with your health and safety.
- Limit alcohol intake, and do not drink alcohol and drive.
- Wear a seatbelt.
- Wear protective gear when doing adventure activities.
- Respect your host country and its people by following local laws and customs.
- Pay attention to your health when you come home.
The SAFETI Adaptation of Peace Corp Resources suggest that “Problems range from minor verbal harassment to theft and robbery to serious physical and sexual assault. These incidents are of concern to all students and staff. Try to obtain country and region specific statistics on physical and sexual assault.” To help limit the amount of safety incidents that occur, the students should be aware of conditions and factors that attribute to risk, strategies to avoid risk, and how to report these incidences that can be viewed on the Peace Corps website. (Adapted from “Personal Safety” module, Pre-Service Health Training for Volunteer Binder, Peace Corps Office of Medical Services.)
Pay attention to the political climate and warnings or alerts issued by the embassy or consulate (http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis_pa_tw_1168.html). Use this page to become aware of real security threats that may cause civil disturbance, and avoid unnecessary risks. You can register online with the U.S. Department of State prior to your arrival in the host country to receive this type of information (https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/). “Registration allows you to record information about your upcoming trip abroad that the Department of State can use to assist you in case of an emergency. Americans residing abroad can also get routine information from the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.” Confirm with the U.S. embassy the procedures for you and your family in the event of a crisis or evacuation.
The SAFETI Clearinghouse lists Personal and Safety Adjustment issues, dealing with travel and transportation, sexual harassment and assault, discrimination, cultural adjustment, student conduct, crime, and violence. View http://globaled.us/irl/personalsafety.html for further reading on these issues along with sample forms and other suggested links to help students learn about tips for personal safety.
Consider limiting or eliminating high risk activities such as skiing, mountain climbing, scuba diving, white water rafting, etc., which can expose students to a high risk of injury or possibly even death.