Travel Registry Offers Connection in Crisis

Database of international travel instrumental in helping Duke community members in danger

Registering travel plans and contact information in the International Travel Registry helps Duke find faculty, staff and students in an emergency.

During the recent political unrest in Egypt, Chris Boroski sent emails to Duke students, faculty and staff in the region on Duke business to ask if they needed help.To find out who was in the region, Boroski, Duke's director of corporate risk management, turned to the online Duke International Travel Registry."It is the first place we go to when a crisis happens to find out if any Duke people might be in danger," Boroski said. "But it is only as good as the information provided by the traveler."The registry, which launched in 2008, helps in coordinating a response for Duke community members who may be caught in an international emergency while traveling abroad for Duke. Registering an itinerary, passport information and emergency contact information is required for all undergraduates regardless of destination, and all graduate students going to a destination on Duke's Restricted Regions List. Registration is recommended for all others, including graduate students, faculty and staff. Duke has used the registry to get in touch with travelers about the flu in Asia, terrorist bombs in St. Petersburg, Russia and earthquakes in New Zealand and Mexico. The communication usually starts with an email asking the person registered to check in. If that fails, Duke turns to other methods captured in the registry, including cell phones with international service, Facebook and Twitter.On June 29, when the U.S. Department of State began withdrawing non-emergency staff and family members from Egypt because of increasingly violent street protests, the travel registry showed 11 travelers in Egypt: a group of Duke Engage students, faculty and staff based in Cairo and two students traveling the country on independent studies. After Duke announced travel restrictions to Egypt on July 3, Duke departments came forward with information about eight additional Duke people in the region who were not in the travel registry."We believe we eventually contacted all of Duke's people in Egypt, but it would have been easier if they had all been registered," Boroski said. "We have invested resources to help people from Duke who are traveling deal with a crisis, but we can't mobilize those resources if we don't know they are there and can't contact them to find out what they need."Last May, the travel registry was upgraded to allow proxies like assistants or business managers to enter information in the system. The upgrade also enabled special alerts, such as an email notification to the traveler if his or her passport has less than six months before expiration.Christy Parrish Michels, senior manager of global administrative policies and procedures, encourages Duke community members traveling on Duke business to contact her if they have any questions about how to enter information or suggestions to make the registry easier to use. "Anyone who monitors international news knows that there seems to be a crisis somewhere every week," she said. "The travel registry plays a pivotal role in our ability contact folks in a timely manner to see if they need assistance."