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International Safety & Security

Thoughtful and thorough security planning is an essential component of a rewarding and successful international project. Even locations considered relatively safe may present challenges.

You can start by:

  1. Assessing your location's risks and developing plans or trainings to mitigate those risks.
  2. Reviewing the Travel Tools section of our website for requirements and advice.
  3. Consulting with our International Safety & Security team so we can help you plan appropriately.

7 Safety & Security Considerations

Risk Factors

Conduct a threat assessment that focuses on medical capabilities and availability of emergency support rather than high-profile, low-likelihood events such as terrorist attacks. Assess whether program participants’ nationality, gender, gender-identity, sexuality, religion, or activity (e.g. researching a sensitive or controversial topic) are additional risk factors. Special consideration should be given to where the traveler will work and live, which should include obtaining a criminal activity profile for the proposed locations, if possible.


Create a transportation plan that includes options for public transportation, an employee-operated vehicle, or a car and driver service, as applicable. Options for emergency departure from country should be taken into account (e.g. does the location have multiple means of egress, such as air, road, rail, or sea?).


Develop a communications plan that includes periodic check-ins with participants during the project and an emergency communication plan. Ensure all program participants are familiar with it. Check with us about the necessity and availability of emergency communication equipment (e.g. satellite phones).


Work with program participants and program mangers to create an individual risk assessment that includes mitigation strategies and applicable training (e.g. emergency response training for on-the-ground personnel). Conduct pre-departure training that provides the travelers with location-specific information and resources.

Medical and Evacuation Insurance

Determine if individuals participating in the program or project are eligible for the University's International SOS membership or if there is a need for them to procure emergency medical and evacuation support separately. Those eligible under Harvard's International SOS membership should be informed of its assistance services and receive instructions for how and when to contact International SOS. Because International SOS is not health insurance, all participants should check with their health insurance provider to determine coverage in the program’s host country. You may also want to consider a pre-deployment medical screening for participants. Learn more about common insurance requirements abroad.


Based on the threat assessment, you may need to budget for physical security for lodging and office locations, transportation and travel security, access to medical care, and any applicable training to mitigate the risks you’ve identified. It's also important to incorporate emergency funds for disasters and the management of disasters.

Registering Travel

All lodging and contact information for those abroad should be entered in the International SOS MyTrips platform. In an emergency, International SOS and our staff rely on the travel itineraries and contact information in MyTrips to account for Harvard affiliates abroad and rapidly respond if medical and security support are needed.

Travel Tools

In the Travel Tools section of our website, you’ll find important and helpful information about:

You may also find it helpful to browse our extensive resources for travelers and project managers.

Contact Us

Our International Safety & Security team specializes in risk assessments, intelligence analysis, and emergency response. In support of this, we maintain working relationships with security professionals, international consultants, and diplomats around the globe to advise Harvard programs and travelers on the latest trends and developments.

If you have questions or concerns about the health and safety risks for your project's location, or if you're interested in scheduling a pre-departure orientation, contact us.