Everyone has the potential to experience some type of catastrophe while on their mission trip. Whether it is minor or major, having a good plan in place ahead of time is a necessity. If you are traveling to another country, you should consider doing some research so you are prepared for your journey. Having a mission trip emergency plan is just good planning. The old adage “better to be safe than sorry” applies here. Spending a couple of hours researching and putting an emergency plan in place will be worth every minute invested if, indeed, an emergency should arise.
Start out by reading the Traveler’s Checklist which includes information the U.S. Department of State has put together. There are a wealth of links and suggestions to help you have the best experience possible while on your journey. Things covered on this website are ways to educate yourself about your destination, links to look up travel warnings or alerts for your destination country, health warnings or alerts in the areas you will be traveling and how to prepare to use foreign money and contact details for the nearest U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate.
Make sure you have your required documents, such as passports and visas. If you take any medications, you should get a letter from your doctor about the medications you are taking. Some countries have strict laws about drugs that apply even to over-the-counter medications. For anyone traveling alone with children, you may need to show custody papers or have written consent from the other parent to enter another country. It is a good idea to check with the embassy of your foreign destination before traveling. A good idea for your Mission Trip Emergency Plan is to make a photocopy of your travel documents and leave a copy with a trusted family member or friend in case there is an emergency.
You can sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at step.state.gov. Through this program, you can receive travel and security updates about your destination. This is a free service that allows U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If there is an emergency at home and your family needs to reach you, they can call Overseas Citizens Services in Washington, D.C. at (888) 407-4747 (from the U.S. or Canada). Watch the STEP video here and gain a better understanding of the program.
You must always have health insurance while traveling abroad. If your U.S. health insurance does not cover you overseas, you should consider buying a supplemental insurance that would cover medical and emergency medical evacuation costs. Depending on your destination country, you may have to pay cash for your medical care. Social Security and Medicare do not provide coverage outside of the United States. Travel insurance is also a good idea, as it covers lost baggage and canceled flights.
In order to stay connected with these services, you can follow the TravelGov Facebook and Twitter accounts for safety and security information, which can be helpful if you have an overseas crisis. By registering with the STEP program, you will have contact details that will allow you to be reached in case of an emergency. Always carry the phone number and address of the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate with you in case your passport is stolen or lost.
Lastly, always have a plan to be in contact with those back home. Find a way to check in with family and friends to assure them of your safety. There is usually free wifi available in local cafes, libraries or museums. By using email, Skype, social media or cell phone, you can keep those who love you in the loop and at ease, knowing that all is well with you.
With just a little extra planning, you can create an effective Mission Trip Emergency Plan in no time at all.