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International SOS, a global security service, will now provide its medical, safety and emergency services to all Pepperdine community members traveling abroad beginning in November.
This new provider will offer its services to Pepperdine travelers, including students, faculty, staff and graduate students. International SOS will offer several new safety features for those traveling abroad with Pepperdine, such as a travel tracker and a mobile check-in feature. International students will have access to International SOS through a mobile app in addition to the website.
“This is going to be a fantastic service for our students, faculty and staff,” Chief Human Resources Officer Lauren Cosentino said. “International programs are important to our educational experience at Pepperdine, and we want to support them and we think this is a perfect tool.”
Once the system is up, students will register into the International SOS system to create a profile where they will be able to access the services. One of the services available, the travel tracker, will function similarly to the travel log Pepperdine currently uses, where students report travel plans online.
“If there is an emergency abroad, Pepperdine can run a report and ascertain where people are around the world to get them the help they need,” Cosentino said. “The travel tracker is only as good as what the person enters in, the travel tracker will not tell us if the student is not in the location they reported they would be.”
The mobile check-in feature will help retrieve the precise location of Pepperdine travelers that the travel tracker does not.
“If another emergency were to occur, such as the attacks in Paris or Brussels, Pepperdine will send a text message out to travelers asking them to do a mobile check-in where they will hit a button on the app and it will ping them on a map where they are in that precise moment,” Cosentino said. “However, these texts are all dependent on Wi-Fi or a data plan, so it is awfully important to take advantage of Wi-Fi.”
International SOS can also provide Pepperdine travelers with information to a country they intend to visit.
“If a student plans to travel on an upcoming weekend and there have been, for example, protests in that country, the student can call International SOS and find out more information to see if anything else is going on,” Cosentino said. “Control Risk Security Intelligence Firm CS, a service under International SOS that we have already been working with for a number of years, provides this information.”
Parents with students traveling abroad will also be able to use services provided by International SOS.
“Parents can call International SOS to get information on a country their child will be traveling to,” Cosentino said. “International SOS will not disclose [to] parents information regarding their children’s itinerary plans.”
International SOS offers several ways to help Pepperdine travelers in the case of an accident, emergency or issue.
“The goal is to get the person in care quickly and get them what they needed, so it can help if some one lost a passport, of they are stuck in another country or any other kind of security or medical emergency,” Cosentino said.
The Pepperdine International Programs Office has also been working with International SOS to get the system live in November.
“The world is becoming a more complex place, and we want to give students more information and support services when they are abroad,” International Programs Director Greg Muger said. “If you are sick, feel unsafe, are being held by people in another country or any other type of emergency, they will provide you with support and services.”
While International SOS will not go live for all Pepperdine travelers until November, some Pepperdine graduate travel programs are already using it, and information about International SOS was sent out over the summer to parents and students who will be traveling abroad this year. Students already abroad will learn more about it during their orientations.
“It’s comforting to know support is always readily available,” Duke Schillaci, a sophomore studying the academic year in Buenos Aires, Argentina, said. “I believe this program has the potential to prevent dangerous situations and looks to be the future of travel safety.”
Pepperdine has been working for several months to acquire International SOS’ services.
“People traveling with Pepperdine will have all kinds of information at their fingertips when they travel,” Cosentino said. “We want people to see this as a service that will benefit them, and we think it will greatly benefit them.”
International SOS works with several Fortune 500 companies and provides its services to more than 200 schools in the U.S. This new service will not affect the cost of tuition for students going abroad.\
This article was updated at 10:20 p.m. with a correction to the length of time it took to acquire International SOS’ services.
Follow Sebastian Lopez Barba on twitter: @SebLopezBarba