7 Steps for Creating a Pre-Travel Emergency Plan

Anyone involved in their organization’s travel risk management (TRM) strategy knows that taking a proactive approach to emergency planning isn’t always easy. However, without clearly-defined processes before travel takes place, your organization could miss important details–details that could potentially lead to duty of care oversights and worst of all, hinder the health and safety of your travelers.

That’s why we’re sharing this 7-step travel emergency plan that is not only flexible and scalable, but could also help your organization respond to a crisis in a manner that best ensures the interests of your travelers and your organization.

Checklist and pen

Step 1: Designate Representatives
Clearly establish representatives in your organization who can be the primary point(s) of contact for travelers during emergency situations. These representatives should be formally introduced to your traveling population as part of your organization’s pre-trip orientation initiatives. The scale of this program should vary depending on the size of your organization and the number of travelers; it can be a single individual, an internal team, or even a TRM provider so long as there is 24/7 coverage and a unified email and phone number travelers can use. Be sure to also build in appropriate staffing patterns and ‘fill-ins’ to serve as back-ups as there should always be someone available to field that emergency phone call at 2am.

Step 2: Delegate Roles & Authority
Assembling a crisis response team is a great way to ensure your designated representatives and other key stakeholders understand their roles—and levels of authority—before an emergency strikes. Staff members with decision-making authority should collaborate to discuss procedures, problems, and potential “curve balls” in the context of different types of travel emergency scenarios. Objectives should be centered on the training and familiarization of roles, protocols, communication chains and who can ‘authorize what’ during a crisis.

Step 3: Provide Authorization
When a traveler is hospitalized out of the country, often primary insurance will not guarantee medical expenses. If your organization is properly prepared for this possibility, your crisis response team or TRM firm can reach out directly for authorization to ensure expenses are handled so medical care is not delayed. These types of decisions can be challenging to make in the heat of the moment, so consider incorporating a decision-making model to help facilitate and expedite the expense authorization process.

Step 4: Share Health and Safety Information
An informed traveler is a safer traveler! One of the best ways to protect travelers is to provide them with information that will help them avoid emergencies in the first place. The goal is to issue a drumbeat of continuous messaging before and during travel to not only communicate important health and safety information to travelers, but also their duty to take action on the guidance provided to them. Some key areas you may want to cover with your travelers include:

      • Health, Security, & Geopolitical Risks

      • Language/Cultural/Legal Considerations

      • Customized Advice Based on Travelers’ Personal Risk Profiles

Step 5: Educate on Emergency Resources
Pre-travel education is great, but it can only go so far without a credible, vetted line-up of assistance resources that everyone knows how to access during an emergency. These resources can include (but aren’t limited to): English-speaking hospitals and clinics, mental health/sexual assault support, local emergency numbers (ambulance, fire and police), U.S. Embassies and Consulates, and your organization’s 24/7 designated representatives/TRM provider. In addition to encouraging travelers to program these numbers into their phones, provide digital files and printed copies so travelers have this information at their fingertips at all times. It’s also encouraged for everyone—your crisis team and travelers included—to test and confirm this ‘response system’ under controlled conditions. For example, do all numbers direct to the right entities and is everyone well-versed on how to make an international phone call from their devices? These are the types of things that could throw a wrench in the emergency response process if not ironed out well in advance of a crisis.

Step 6: Share a List of Critical Documents
As part of your pre-travel communications roll-out, share a list of critical documents that travelers should have immediately accessible—this helps ensure no one is scrambling for important information when time is of the essence. Some examples include:

      • List of emergency contacts*

      • Ticket numbers/itinerary*

      • Copy of passport

      • Visa (if traveling to a country with a specific visa requirement)

      • Primary health insurance information

      • Copy of prescriptions – including eyeglasses and contact lenses

      • Letter from physician describing medications and translated in the local language

*It’s recommended designated representatives/program administrators also have access to this information at all times.

Step 7: Utilize Online Risk Management Tools
Achieving the level of proactive oversight necessary in keeping your traveler protection system running like a well-oiled machine can be challenging without the right tools and technology in place. Luckily there are online travel tracking systems like Searchlight* to help you quickly locate your travelers, identify world events that could affect them and also communicate instantly when they need help. Your online risk management system should also provide travelers with a consolidated resource for viewing their itineraries, receiving relevant destination information/alerts and reaching out to your TRM provider directly for help (preferably through a mobile app since many travelers have their devices with them at all times). This helps bring your organization’s travel risk management initiatives full circle from proactive information delivery and traveler oversight, to instantaneous access, to effective crisis response.

We hope you found this 7-step travel emergency planning process helpful! Remember: protocols and policies differ from organization to organization, so while there is no one size fits all approach to travel emergency planning, this is certainly a great place to start.

Need help getting your organization’s TRM planning initiatives off the ground?
Contact us today.


For over 25 years, On Call International has provided fully-customized travel risk management and global assistance services protecting millions of travelers, their families, and their organizations. Contact us today and watch our video to learn more. You can also stay in touch with On Call’s in-house risk management, travel health and security experts by signing up for our quarterly Travel Risk Management (TRM) newsletter.