What to do in the event of an emergency abroad

The following was designed to provide guidance in the event that a Duke faculty, staff or student encounters an emergency while traveling abroad on behalf of the University.

What constitutes an emergency?

An emergency is any circumstance that poses a genuine risk to, or that has already disturbed, the safety and welfare of a Duke traveler while he/she is abroad (a "Duke traveler" is someone traveling outside the United States with "Duke Support"). Emergencies may include (but are not limited to) the following types of events/situations:

Who to Call

After ensuring your immediate safety and well-being, contact International SOS or the Duke University Police Department (001+919-684-2444). Both will accept international collect calls.

If you are a Duke faculty/staff member dealing with an incident abroad and need advice, please contact our office.

  • Arrest/detainment or questioning by the police or other security forces
  • Any legal action (e.g., lawsuit, deposition, trial)
  • Disappearance or kidnapping
  • Hospitalization for any reason
  • Local political crisis that could affect the traveler’s safety or well being
  • Physical assault, sexual assault or rape
  • Robbery
  • Serious illness, physical or emotional
  • Significant accident and/or injury
  • Terrorist threat or attack
  • Travel accidents
  • Weather related event (earthquake, flood, tornado, hurricane, Tsunami)


All travelers for Duke should carry with them the emergency contact information for International SOS, the Duke's Campus Police as well as any programmatic/sponsoring unit emergency contact information that the department might have in place. Also, registering your trip details and emergency contacts in the Duke Travel Registry is key to ensuring swift validation that you are a covered traveler when emergencies arise and it facilitates a quick response when disasters strike abroad.

Programmatic staff or faculty who are familiar with the destination should orient students as to the potential dangers and cultural norms that must be adhered to while the student is at the destination. Discuss preventable accidents (e.g., avoiding walking alone at night, adhering to what is the appropriate dress or behavior, etc.)

While ISOS provides assistance when seeking medical care, it is not health insurance and some fees may apply. Travelers should always check with their health insurance provider before going abroad to see if expenses will be covered. In some instances, if your health insurance provider does not offer out-of-network coverage, it is recommended that a short-term health insurance policy be purchased by the individual prior to travel. Most insurance plans will cover emergency care and it is recommended that you carry your health insurance card along with the ISOS membership card when you travel.

  • Students enrolled in the Student Blue Health Insurance plan should view their International Travel Coverage benefits prior to departure.
  • Duke Employees who are "full-time benefits eligible" and their dependents accompanying them on a Duke trip abroad are covered by the CIGNA Medical Benefits Abroad plan.
  • For those who may need to purchase short-term traveler health insurance plans, please see the Travel Partners page of this website for provider suggestions.

Responding to emergencies while abroad

First and foremost, in an emergency the traveler’s safety and well-being should be addressed. If this means seeking immediate medical attention or obtaining police intervention and protection first, the traveler should take whatever measures are necessary.

After ensuring your immediate safety and well-being, contact International SOS or the Duke University Police Department at 001+919-684-2444. Both will accept international collect calls.

During a political crisis, which is the event that affects many of our travelers each year, or similar type of encounter during which foreigners or U.S. citizens in general may be at risk, remember to

  • keep a low profile;
  • avoid behavior that could call attention to you;
  • avoid demonstrations or situations where there could be danger;
  • avoid locales where visitors to the city/country are known to congregate;
  • avoid wearing clothes or exhibiting behavior that would label you as a visitor.

Sheltering in place is often the most secure posture to take until International SOS can facilitate your evacuation or you can relocate to a safer location.