Escape Plan in Place?

..  Do you have an evacuation plan ready to implement should it become necessary to make a quick escape due to political or social upheaval in your current country of residence? Many International Educators I know are under the impression their school will take charge in such a situation and fly them to safety. Disconcertingly, a majority of international schools have no such evacuation plan in place–it’s every man for himself.

Believing your embassy will take care of you if an emergency exit becomes necessary can lead to a false sense of security. At least, that’s been my experience as an American living abroad. Following 9/11, the entire staff of the American embassy in Lahore, Pakistan was the very first to jump ship. The same was true in Guatemala after a military overthrow of the government. In the D.R. Congo, military/rebels could easily shut down the only road to the airport, requiring a seriously strong Plan B.

The American embassy serves primarily as an information and advisory body. Its recommendation is that if a crisis arises, US citizens should make plans to leave on a commercial carrier. In the event it does becomes necessary for the US embassy to organize an evacuation, Americans are required to sign a promissory note saying they will cover the of cost their flight “on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable.” So much for putting my US tax money to good use!

My school in Pakistan took responsibility for getting us out soon after 9/11. They set the staff up with a travel agent and covered the cost of our exit flights. In Guatemala, with military tanks in the streets, helicopters patrolling and radio/TV/phone communication shut down, we were on our own. This school had previously offered no support for anything, so we had no reason to believe things would change in an emergency. The director lived just doors from me. He was unavailable.

The speed and regularity at which the global-political climate is changing can suddenly make a country that was relatively safe when you arrived a hot-spot to be avoided. Believing/hoping that your school or embassy is willing/able to take care of you in an emergency could be putting all your ‘safety’ eggs in one basket. A good question for a director while recruiting could be: “What’s your plan, if necessary, for an emergency evacuation?”

ISR Asks: Does your school have an emergency evacuation plan in place? If so, how practical is it, and is there a solid Plan B? Have you created a personal plan for yourself and your family just in case you find yourself on your own?