When an earthquake struck Chile last February, a group of University students was studying abroad in the South American country. But because the University had access to all of the students’ information and a satellite phone, officials were able to assure the students’ parents that they were safe.
The students’ information was available through the University’s current travel registry. But not all students and faculty studying or traveling abroad are registered — something the University aims to change with the launch of a new online travel registry for students, faculty and staff who travel around the globe.
The registry, which went live today, is located on Wolverine Access and is accessible from the University’s Global Michigan website. The new registry is designed to centralize travelers’ data, make it easier for students to register and for the University to keep track of students and faculty abroad.
The University will also use the website to more effectively communicate travel advisories and warnings, like the earthquake in Chile, to the University community.
A.T. Miller, director of the University’s Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates program, said that last February’s earthquake in Chile was an example of a situation in which the University would make use of the travel registry.
“We had 12 students (in Chile),” Miller said. “Because they were in the registry, and on our program, we had a satellite phone connection.”
Using the registry, Miller said he was able to inform their parents or emergency contacts that the students were okay after the earthquake. But with the new registry, coupled with HTH travel insurance, Miller said communication will be more streamlined. Officials hope the comprehensive process will make students and their families more comfortable with the idea of study abroad.
“We’re trying to make it so that the students and the families can be confident that yes, you can be a global player, and with a sort of safety net or support that makes you confident that this is worth doing or makes sense,” Miller said.
The registry is also part of University President Mary Sue Coleman’s goal of having at least half of the student body experience international travel during their time at the University.
Any student, staff or faculty member who is traveling outside the United States on a University-sanctioned trip, in a group or as an individual, is required to register. The registry will also be open to members of the University community who are going on personal trips.
Anyone who purchases the University’s HTH travel health insurance plan will have to register his or her travel log before purchasing the insurance package. Travelers’ itineraries will also be on the registry, so that in the case of an emergency, University officials can know where the individuals are and how to assist them.
The registry is being introduced in three phases over the next few months. Today, individuals, groups and administrators will be able to register. The University’s Department of Public Safety and other emergency responders can also now access the registry.
The second phase of the travel registry will be released in April 2011 and will enable more enhanced search features and an iPhone application to access trip itineraries. In June 2011, the third and final stage, which will expand the technological features on the site, will be implemented.
The registry will also act as a planning tool for students, by providing links to websites with information about advisories and warnings so students can look up everything from what immunizations they need before they travel, to the cholera outbreak in Haiti, Miller said.
“We also provide advice,” Miller said. “One of the things the travel registry also lets you know is that the place you’re going has a State Department warning against certain things and that way you can be well informed. There are also connections to the Center for Disease Control.”
If any new travel warnings or advisories are issued, details about the warning will be posted immediately to the new Global Michigan website.
Members of the University community should register no matter where they’re going, even if it’s to Canada, Miller said. He cited the SARS outbreak in Toronto a few years ago as something that can occur even in a country relatively close to the United States.
“Even though you might think, ‘Why would I register a trip to this nearby place?’ (It is so) we can support people,” Miller said. “We had some people put in quarantine. When that happens it’s pretty scary.”