Establishing an Emergency Preparedness Plan

Learn about establishing an emergency preparedness plan while administering international operations for Columbia University. 


When working internationally, emergency situations can  arise due to internal (domestic) or external (international) threats:

  • Political (social unrest or a change to a repressive government);
  • Natural disasters (typhoon/hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption);
  • Crime and terrorism;
  • Health Issues (epidemic or other disease);
  • Transportation safety. 

Depending on the scope and nature of the activity, a University department may wish to undertake a brief or comprehensive assessment of risk, explore ways to help mitigate these risks, and plan for a response in case of emergency.

Each Columbia staff member is responsible for identifying safety and security threats in the location to which they will be traveling and taking action to reduce harm and risk to him/herself, his/her colleagues, University property, and the people and institutions with whom Columbia collaborates. This includes raising concerns within their departments in advance of travel and discussing and implementing ways to mitigate potential risk. If sufficient measures cannot be taken to mitigate potential serious risk, it may be appropriate to explore rescheduling, postponing, or canceling the planned travel.

Factors to be considered in the assessment of risk could include but are not limited to:

  • Location and contact information for closest Columbia Global Center or other programs
  • Local health concerns and health care resources
  • Crime
  • Local weather
  • Local travel
  • Road conditions and public transportation
  • Availability and quality of local accommodations
  • Cultural  and legal differences
  • Political climate
  • Economic conditions
  • Holidays or election days
  • Location of the nearest U.S. embassy or your home country’s embassy
Suggested Resources for Assessing Risks

Your best resource for research could be the group lead or trip organizers and Columbia staff at your travel destination. Additionally, the following sites can be helpful:

In addition to the websites listed above, a variety of news sources can be consulted before and during the period of travel. These include the websites of newspapers and television networks of the destination city and country, but also the websites of such international news outlets as The New York Times, the The Guardian, and the BBCGoogle Alerts and other RSS feeds can also help keep the traveler informed.

For further details regarding traveler safety, refer to the Plan a Trip section of the Global Travel website.

Depending on the nature, location, and duration of a project, one useful resource to explore is the development of a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan. Although the content of a plan may vary widely—and should be customized to address the level of risk of operating in a particular location—a plan may include defined responsibilities for individuals in NY and the host country, 24/7 emergency contact protocols and direct links to units in New York and the HR Manager and the Chief Administrative Officer of the international project. A Safety and Emergency Preparedness Plan can incorporate security procedures and the duties of the committee and protocols for a variety of possible emergency scenarios.

In drafting the plan, the Guidelines to Develop a Safety and Emergency Preparedness Plan could be helpful.

Following these guidelines, a copy of the Safety and Emergency Preparedness Plan, including the EMT members contact list, should be disseminated to host country personnel and the unit's management staff in the U.S. The initial and revised plans should be emailed to Global Support.


In drafting the plan, the Guidelines to Develop a Safety and Emergency Preparedness Plan could be helpful.


Still have questions?

Visit our Service Center.