International SOS

Service helps Tufts community stay safe while overseas

Each year some 500 Tufts University juniors study abroad, and countless Tufts faculty and staff travel overseas for research or other purposes. To ensure their safety, Tufts has signed on to a program called International SOS.

International SOS offers a variety of services. If someone has a medical or other emergency in another country, the company will help travelers obtain the appropriate assistance. It also offers guides to individual countries so that travelers can look up what immunizations are needed, get an update on the current political situation and learn about other issues specific to a particular country.

"Obviously, there is a lot of concern right now with worldwide travel," said David Slater, director of risk management at Tufts. "We want to make sure that everyone traveling for Tufts is safe and is informed about current conditions in foreign countries."

The SOS website has a specific portal for Tufts. Once the user logs in, he or she can download and print out a membership card that provides information about who to contact in an emergency.

"It's great for us," said Janna Behrens, program and orientation coordinator for the Tufts Office of Programs Abroad. "The site not only includes security information and a current political update, but also information on cultural tips, voltage use, medical facilities, water supplies, food and other technical things that students need to know."

Slater said the membership card should be taken on a trip. The card says where to call in an emergency, and help is available around the clock. In a medical emergency, he said, International SOS would provide information on where to find a doctor or a hospital. In an extreme case, International SOS would evacuate the student or employee.

While International SOS is an insurance policy, it does not replace health insurance, Slater said. The university pays one blanket premium for the service, and as long as someone from Tufts is on university or educational business, he or she is covered. He said that in addition to the junior year abroad programs, the School of Veterinary Medicine, the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy frequently send staff and students to other countries.

So far, said Slater, no one has had to use International SOS for an emergency evacuation, but many people have used the information the service provides.

"The beauty of this arrangement," he said, "is that it offers us blanket coverage, and we don't have to worry about who is going where and when they are going. Tufts is so decentralized that we can't know where everyone is going on a day-to-day basis." To gain access to the Tufts portal at the International SOS website and download a membership card, you must log in from a Tufts network computer. Go to and click on "risk management and insurance," then click "international travel" and "log in automatically," and you will be taken to the Tufts portal.