Disaster Preparedness for International Relocation

Moving abroad for a job is an exciting opportunity for both individuals and their employer. International transferees can immerse themselves in a new culture and grow professionally, while companies have the opportunity to expand their global footprint.

Employers typically support relocating employees by offering programs and benefits such as funds for moving expenses and resources for obtaining a visa, filing paperwork and even getting acclimated with a culture. However, the planning and preparation shouldn’t stop there.

One area that is often overlooked is preparing for the unexpected and possibly dangerous events that can occur after an employee is settled into their new home. While it’s unlikely emergencies will happen, emergency preparedness is essential to helping employees remain safe at all times.

From natural disasters to terrorist attacks, there are several potential scenarios that can put international transferees at risk. Here are a few tips for staying ahead of an emergency situation.

Have a disaster preparedness plan

While your organization can’t necessarily predict a crisis, you can make sure your international employees know what to do should they encounter one. This is critical in helping them stay calm during an emergency. The nature of your company’s business, its location, number of employees and other factors will determine the specifics of your emergency preparedness plan. Still, there are some recommendations that you should follow.

Emergency fact sheet

Create a one-pager of important information, phone numbers, contact information, addresses and other emergency information employees can easily access. Panic often follows an emergency event, so be sure to provide basic, necessary information that employees can easily digest and keep handy.

Stay informed

Encourage employees to stay as informed as possible by monitoring the news, trusted social media accounts and crowdsourcing information. It’s important that your organization provides as many updates as possible, relying on multiple modes of communication (e.g., email, phone calls, text, social media, news outlets) in case certain ones are unavailable or inaccessible. Also, have employees stay in touch with your country’s local embassy or consulate and follow its communications channels.

Register with your local embassy

In addition to following your company’s consulate, be sure your employees are registered with your country’s local embassy and provide them with an emergency contact. In the event of an emergency, the local embassy will include your employee in disaster zones and evacuation plans.

Include a list of emergency items to pack, like passport and important documents, cash, food and water, sanitizer, change of clothes, map, lighter or matches and a first aid kit.

Use resources provided by the State Department

Don’t re-invent the wheel when creating an emergency plan for international employees. The U.S Department of State and the Bureau of Consular Affairs have created resources for travelers in several scenarios, including tips and what to do when traveling to high-risk areas.

While the following are tips for high-risk areas, according to The U.S. Department of State, they can be applied to any traveler:

  • Enroll your trip in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
  • Discuss a plan with loved ones regarding care/custody of children, pets, property, belongings, etc.
  • Share important documents, login information, and points of contact with loved ones so that they can manage your affairs if you are unable to return as planned.
  • Leave your expensive/sentimental belongings behind.
  • Erase any sensitive photos, comments, or other materials from your social media pages, cameras, laptops, and other electronic devices that could be considered controversial or provocative by local groups.

Emergency preparedness plan and training

There are a number of natural and man-made disasters that can cause an emergency evacuation. Have the following planned out so employees will know what to do if an emergency occurs.

International relocation emergency training and employee handbook

If you’re going to take the time to plan for possible emergencies, be sure to train employees ahead of their travels. Consider offering an emergency preparedness course and ensuring your employees know where resources can be accessed.

Health care concerns

Although situations like natural disasters more immediately come to mind when a person hears the phrase “international emergency,” one of the most common scenarios is medical issues. Be sure your employee is equipped with everything they may need should they require medical attention while on an international assignment.

Health-related insurances

There are a number of different considerations when choosing a health care plan for international assignees, but there are two options that organizations commonly pursue: U.S. insurance carrier and Global Business Travel Accident (BTA) with a medical rider. This is a topic we recently covered in greater detail, which you can read here.

Before your employees begin their international assignment, they need to be well-versed with the ins and outs of their plan. Be sure to educate and train employees on how to utilize their plans in the event they do run into any trouble.


The best way to prevent infection or disease is by getting vaccinated. The CDC recommends vaccinating at least a month before traveling, as your body will need time to build up immunity. Common travel vaccines include yellow fever, Hepatitis A and Typhoid, and some countries will require proof of vaccines before entering. Find out which countries require specific vaccines here.

If you have questions about emergency preparedness or how to support employees relocating for a job internationally, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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