With the alarming number of travel-related deaths and injuries abroad, an investment of 60 minutes can save lives!
Depart Smart’s first-ever
Travel Heroes Safety Certification
course aims to protect the lives of American tourists
Hearts ached across the country as the story of American student tourist Otto Warmbier’s imprisonment and death made national headlines. It called our attention once again to Americans’ need for more travel safety education. Travel and tourism consumer safety is poor. No one gets a warning before they buy or fly.
Did you know that that 911 is not the international number for emergencies? Or that Americans can be arrested in some countries for having premarital sex? Of the thousands of people who have taken a 10-point eye-opener travel safety quiz, most can’t correctly answer more than 3 questions. One travel reporter missed 9 out of 10. This lack of safety knowledge routinely puts international travelers at risk, and tragically even results in avoidable deaths. Now Depart Smart, the non-profit travel safety organization, is launching a solution with its first-ever Travel Heroes Safety Certification course.
Leading the charge is Depart Smart Founder Sheryl Hill, whose son Tyler died a preventable death while participating in a People to People student program in Japan. “Tyler didn’t know the emergency number, how to ask for help in Japanese, or that a hospital was minutes away,” Hill recalls. “Then I discovered that I might not be able to travel to Japan because of the six-month passport validity rule.” Most countries will not permit a traveler to enter their country unless the passport is set to expire at least six months after the final day of travel.
“We want to help people enjoy travel safely. Our goal with this course is not to hinder travel,” says Hill, “but to wrap people with the knowledge to identify and avoid risks, get the help they need and get home to the people they love.”
The Travel Hero Safety Certification is designed as a 60-minute course
Available mid-summer, Depart Smart’s Travel Hero Safety Certification course is a web-based training program that features fun, animated explainer videos. At the end of each chapter, participants play a game to test their knowledge, as well as earn badges and social media share rights. By completing the six chapters, participants will develop a personalized, downloadable, emergency action plan and receive a special Depart Smart Travel Hero Certification. Industry leaders who promote pre-travel safety awareness can earn Depart Smart’s Travel Hero Seal of Approval.
Hill explains that each course chapter covers essential international travel information:
Geopolitical. “You’ll learn how to use the State Department, and get a heads up on countries where U.S. employees have travel restrictions. You are subject to the laws and customs of the country you are stepping into. In some countries for example, you may be arrested for your sexual orientation or having premarital sex. This chapter also covers weather alerts such as hurricanes and landslides.”
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at state department. “The State Department Foreign affairs office can alert us when things are risky around us such as airport strikes or major world events that may cause you to want to reroute your travel or evacuate. Your embassy can also notify you if something happens back home, if you register your trip in STEP.”
Health and wellness. “Some countries require proof of vaccinations, yet according to the International Trade Association (ITA), about 9 out of 10 people don’t get vaccinations before their journeys. You have vaccinations and medicines for diseases common in the U.S. but not for those in other countries such as malaria, yellow fever, cholera, Japanese encephalitis and more. Travel clinics will also provide you with preventives to reduce your chances of getting sick from such things as non-potable water.”
Geography and housing. “When you book trips online, the photos may not depict what’s there in real life. As I discovered during one trip it could be next to a human waste plant! This chapter shows you how to determine if you’ll be in a sketchy area or if the vacation spot looks like what it says online. You’ll also learn how to create a digital map that shows you how to get to nearby hospitals and other emergency services near you.”
Travel insurance. “People often don’t understand the difference between trip cancellation insurance and travel insurance. As a result, ITA reports about 7 out of 10 people do not travel insured. Travel insurance is reasonably priced and can get you access to quality healthcare, a 24/7 hotline, kidnapping/extortion ransom insurance, legal referrals, bail bonds and even concierge service (such as if you need a converter to charge your smartphone). It can also help you bring someone home if tragedy strikes, which can cost $50,000-$300,000 or more.”
Security and communication. “Not only do the emergency numbers vary by country but there may be a different number to call for an ambulance and the police. This chapter also helps you understand currency exchange rates and what to do if your passport is lost or stolen. You’ll also learn about standby satellite phones to use when cellular service is sketchy.”
Pre-register to save
Those interested in taking Depart Smart’s Travel Safety Heroes course may pre-register for just $50 by going to www.departsmart.org/online-education. After the course launches, the fee will be $100 and offered at TravelHeroes.org. This $50 buys a travel safety assessment, travel safety certification, and an individualized emergency action plan so you can get help and get home. In the future, we hope to offer travel perks as incentives to help people prepare for safe, rewarding journeys.
“Every life is priceless. With this first-of-its-kind course, we are creating a world where we help each other travel safely.”
Additional resources and links can be found on www.DepartSmart.org.
Media Note: To schedule an interview with Sheryl Hill, or to get additional information, contact Media Relations, Inc. at 952-697-5220.
Biography – Sheryl Hill
Sheryl is a world speaker, author of Walking on Sunshine, NRG a Divine Transformation – a spiritual memoir and USA Book News Award winning finalist. Sheryl is featured in People You Need to Know 2012. In addition to their work as founders of Depart Smart, she and husband Allen have been a host family to eight internationals: Sari of Finland, Sylvie of France, Caroline of Sweden, Gilly of South Africa, Nikita of Germany, Yusuke of Japan, Roberto of Chile and Joao of Brazil. They have one surviving son, Alec, who is a university biomedical engineering student.