Safety FAQs

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What security measures are in place at your Centers overseas?
The safety of IES Abroad students is our highest priority. All of the following measures are in place at each IES Abroad Center worldwide:

  • IES Abroad staff is trained and knowledgeable about all IES Abroad safety procedures and protocols, including responding to all levels of emergency.
  • Every IES Abroad Center has an enforced security system.
  • IES Abroad staff at each Center has developed a close relationship with local police and receives updates from the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate regarding U.S. citizen safety.
  • All IES Abroad Centers have plans for evacuating students to safety during emergencies.
  • IES Abroad overseas staff discuss IES Abroad's extensive and thorough student safety guidelines with students during their arrival orientation, and again, should the need arise. IES Abroad students are provided with cards that list emergency telephone numbers of IES Abroad staff and other essential facilities such as the local U.S. consulate.
  • All key IES Abroad staff members have cell phones. Every Center has a quick contact plan so that all students can be reached within a few hours if necessary.
  • IES Abroad students are required to leave their written or web itineraries with staff when they travel away from the program site. All key staff members have emergency information about student health issues under seal, which they can open in case of need.

In response to potential crises, IES Abroad Center staff members are trained and experienced to act quickly, according to the following procedures:

  • Remind students about safety guidelines, the importance of following staff instructions, and about the importance of good decision-making regarding personal safety.
  • Be sensitive to student concerns and thus make office telephones and internet access available after hours so students can contact their families.
  • Contact our liaisons at U.S. Consulates and local police and security.
  • Cancel or redirect field trips away from places that might involve risks.
  • Meet with students to provide accurate updates on the crisis and to quell unfounded rumors.
  • Offer free psychological counseling to assist students in need.
  • Schedule visits with representatives from a variety of religious denominations.
  • Provide opportunities inside and outside the classroom for students to express their feelings and concerns.

IES Abroad Center staff members are also supported by the IES Abroad Chicago supervisory staff that coordinates all safety protocols and contacts the parents of all enrolled students regarding details on the safety of their student.

IES Abroad keeps abreast of international events, especially in countries where there is an IES Abroad Center. Daily intelligence is distributed to staff at all IES Abroad Centers, as well as in the Chicago administrative office.

What happens if there is a national, regional or international emergency or a local threat or danger?
IES Abroad has articulated and rehearsed emergency and contingency plans for responding to potential crises, including for example, natural disasters, civil unrest, terrorist acts, pandemic illness, a declaration of war, etc. (See details above for specifics related to current security measures in place.) The safety of our students is always our first concern. In the event of a crisis that may affect the health and safety of many, or even all students in a specific location, the IES Abroad Crisis Management Team (CMT) is convened to assess and respond to the situation at hand.  The CMT will respond in accordance with established IES Abroad practices and protocols and also may seek the guidance as needed of appropriate experts, including, for example U.S. consular officials, local law enforcement representatives, and local health care providers.

Faculty and staff will discuss the political situation and latest developments with students to create awareness, understanding, and alertness in an effort to defuse any anxiety students might be feeling.

Lastly, IES Abroad also has established a Behavior Intervention Team (BIT).  The BIT is distinct from the CMT in that it examines and may intervene in individual and community situations involving students who may pose a threat or danger to themselves or others.

We also encourage you to continue to visit this website for any additional updates.

What additional steps has IES Abroad taken to enhance students' safety overseas?
The IES Abroad mission focuses heavily on intercultural understanding. For this reason, we try to integrate our students, as much as possible, into the societies where we are located. We do not situate our Centers near other American programs, or in American enclaves. We are either on or close to local university campuses. No signage that distinguishes the facility as an American-affiliated organization is posted on IES Abroad premises. In most of our programs, our students live with local citizens in their homes, or they reside with local students in apartments or dormitories. Generally our students are not readily distinguishable from local students.

Additionally, we remind students about our safety guidelines, the importance of following staff instructions, and about the importance of good decision-making regarding personal safety. We discourage students from wearing clothing that distinguishes them as American, and we advise them to avoid crowds and avoid moving about the city with large groups of Americans. Whenever they travel during the weekend or on breaks, we require students to leave an itinerary with the IES Abroad Center staff so that Center Staff know their whereabouts at all times. We encourage you to counsel your student to take individual responsibility for following these guidelines, many of which are also listed in the IES Abroad Student Handbook.

The State Department provides general advice to U.S. Citizens living abroad.

What is IES Abroad's evacuation plan?
IES Abroad follows the directions of the State Department, which communicates with American embassies overseas. Our staff is in touch with the local American Embassy and all our students who are U.S. citizens are registered with the U.S. Consulate. Students who are citizens of other countries are registered with their consulates (unless they object). We have plans in place to move the students to a safer location or if the situation warrants, to evacuate the program site entirely if the U.S. Embassy or Consulate advises us to do so.

At this point, we have no reason to believe that evacuation will be necessary at any of our Centers. Should an evacuation be necessary, the students will be brought to a more secure location where IES Abroad Center staff members will be able to stay in communication with the IES Abroad Chicago administrative headquarters. We will notify you if such an evacuation occurs.