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International Risk Management

Northwestern University is one of eighty institutions in the country with an office or an individual dedicated to overseeing international health and safety concerns: The Office of Global Safety and Security (OGSS).  The Director also serves a first responder to any emergency abroad involving Northwestern students, faculty or staff on University-sponsored travel.

OGSS, working in concert with other Northwestern units that administer or support study abroad travel, takes all reasonable steps to help students, faculty and staff stay safe during their University-sponsored travel abroad. However, the most important person responsible for safety is you, the traveler. You are responsible for reviewing the safety information provided to you by Northwestern, your program provider, faculty director/sponsor, or other responsible party administering your study abroad experience. Furthermore, it is critical to heed the advice provided by local resources about how to stay safe abroad, particularly when on your own.

Northwestern University strives to keep students, faculty, staff and parents informed of conditions and decisions related to student safety and well-being. However, in these changing times, it is necessary that each student take responsibility for their own safety by staying informed and conducting themself accordingly (see Study Abroad Guide).

Emergency Prepardness and Response

The safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff who are participating in university-sponsored travel is of the highest importance. All reasonable actions will be taken to manage risks and respond to emergencies, while acknowledging that no single plan can address all contingencies. The University recognizes the importance of establishing, in advance, policies and procedures to guide the University's response to crises affecting international travelers.

As emergencies abroad can occur at any time, the Northwestern University Police Department (NUPD) is prepared to accept calls involving international emergencies at (847) 491-3456. The duty officer will collect information, then pass the information on to the most appropriate individual to respond to the situation. Medical emergencies are responded to in collaboration with HTH Worldwide. Security evacuations, if necessary, would be managed in collaboration with HTH Worldwide and Drum Cussac (See Emergencies to report a medical or security incident abroad).

To facilitate the quickest assistance in an emergency abroad, study abroad participants are strongly encouraged to work with on-site staff and faculty as soon as possible.

Risk Assessment and Mitigation

OGSS is charged with monitoring world events and will, when applicable, work with any sponsoring administrative units to communicate risks and mitigation strategies.

Furthermore, staff members in the Study Abroad Office, International Program Development and Global Engagement Studies Institute also regularly and responsbily monitor safety issues in each of Northwestern's undergraduate study abroad program locations. The faculty-led University Study Abroad Committee (USAC) also undertakes regular reviews of all study abroad progrmas in which safety, security and overall quality are measured.

Study abroad program that intend to operate in locations of heightened risk (such as those under U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings) must do so in compliance with the Undergraduate International Travel Policy. The International Risk Assessment Committee (IRAC) is chaired by the Director of OGSS and charged with evaluating the safety of programs and sites in areas of potential heightened risk, and have the ability to recommend program revision or cancellation to address safety and security concerns. Such policies apply to non-credit/non-study abroad undergraduate international travelers as well.

All University-sponsored undergraduate travelers, including study abroad participants, are required to participate in some type of pre-departure orientation that stresses safety issues and understanding cultural differences. Most programs also provide a country-specific orientation and/or additional print or web-based materials in which safety precautions are outlined.

Most students are required to be covered by Northwestern's accident and sickness health insurace policy provided by HTH Worldwide, which includes coverage for medical treatment, evacuation, repatriation and secruity assistance. (See HTH Health Insurance for further information, including exemptions). (This coverage is also available to faculty and staff.)

Emergency Communications

In any emergency, Northwestern has plans to be in contact with students, faculty or staff abroad (see also Emergencies).


If you have any questions regarding international risk management or travel health, safety or security, please contact Julie Anne Friend, Director of Global Safety and Security, at or (847) 467-3175.

To report an emergency after regular business hours, DO NOT send email. Call the NUPD 24/7 number at (847) 491-3456.