Behind-the-Scenes: How Baylor's Department of Public Safety Keeps Bears Safe Abroad
- Jared Bickenbach, pictured in the yellow safety helmet, scales Sacred Valley in Peru climbing 1,200 vertical feet to assess the safety of a zip line for Baylor students and faculty. While climbing the 18,000 foot mountain, Bickenbach evaluated the overall operations of the guide company, safety measures for climbers, condition of the equipment and emergency procedures.
By Cacey Vigil, student news writer
WACO, Texas (Sept. 16, 2019) – The world is a place begging to be explored, especially by Baylor University students who complete coursework abroad or impact communities through global missions.
At Baylor, there are no shortages of opportunities for students to travel, study and serve abroad on six continents. But how does the University keep students safe while abroad? That’s where Jared Bickenbach, assistant director of emergency management and global preparedness at Baylor, steps in.
Bickenbach has been involved with the global security field since 2010. Bickenbach worked in the private sector profession, where he worked on projects for governments and private companies on topics related to explosives, weapons and contraband detection and mitigation efforts. Before that, he worked as a researcher on various projects focusing on insurgencies and military technology for a private company.
“The whole point of my role is to ensure that people are looking at things that could impact international travel at Baylor, ensuring that we have plans in place to deal with that and that the partnerships on campus have been developed to get resources to our faculty and students while they’re traveling,” Bickenbach said.
Before students and faculty go abroad, Bickenbach does extensive research on each location before deeming it safe enough for travel by students, faculty and staff. This includes reaching out to the partner organization of each academic study abroad or exchange program and mission trip to discuss crisis response, safety and security, logistics, how students are transported and picked up, as well as the local living conditions.
After these discussions, Bickenbach decides to move the trip forward in planning or if he will need to visit the site to assess it in person.
“If it’s a moderate-risk location or a new program in a moderate-risk location, I will travel to that particular country. Usually I travel with the Baylor faculty member who is organizing the trip, so they can see what I’m looking at and the concerns I have,” Bickenbach said.
Traveling with a faculty member allows Bickenbach to discuss any potential changes to the itinerary based on security issues that may arise during his assessment of the location. Countries Bickenbach has traveled to include France, Guatemala, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines and Spain for safety and security assessments.
Once the assessment is completed, Bickenbach returns to Baylor to conduct a complete risk assessment.
“The risk assessment is in the event there is a security concern or a safety or health incident abroad, I have the contact information of our partners,” Bickenbach said.
After the risk assessment, Bickenbach monitors the proposed location continuously, looking for any kind of change in the security of the country to which students and faculty hope to travel.
“If something does change the status of the country or the security environment in a country, then we usually have a follow-up conversation with the faculty leader to see if the trip is still doable or to see if we can change some things in the itinerary to make it feasible,” Bickenbach said.
Once Baylor students, faculty and staff are abroad, they are given two primary resources to help with safety and security precautions—a 24-hour hotline number and the World Aware app.
The 24-hour hotline allows students to contact Bickenbach at any time from anywhere in the world. The phone number is most commonly used for medical inquiries about setting up a doctor’s appointment or finding where the nearest hospital is to help with an injury.
“We use the company International SOS for medical facilities abroad. That ensures that if there are western standard of care medical facilities in the country, then our faculty and students have access to them,” Bickenbach said. “A lot of times, if a faculty member or student shows up for an appointment or they were on a mission trip and, for example, they cut their hand or their foot and have to go to the hospital, the hospital will call the [hotline] number. I’ll talk to the nurse or the doctor and get information about the situation—if it’s severe or if it’s minor—and then if I need to do anything here to ensure the standard of care is adequate, and we can make the best decisions for the person who is injured.”
Along with the hotline, students, faculty and staff are encouraged to download the app World Aware. The app allows them to upload their itinerary receive updates about their destinations. If the GPS is turned on, the app will send alerts based on where they travel, that addresses anything from protests to severe weather alerts.
“We use World Aware to communicate with student and faculty. Through World Aware, I can push communications out to people who are traveling, by email or text message,” Bickenbach said.
For example, during recent knife attacks in London, Bickenbach used the app to determine who was in London at the time based on their itinerary. Through the app, he sent messages asking each individual to check in to make sure they were safe and accounted for. Once students and faculty check-in using the app, Bickenbach can usually pinpoint their location within a five-foot radius.
ABOUT BAYLOR DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY
The Baylor University Department of Public Safety serves as an umbrella department for the Baylor University Police Department, emergency management, fire safety, global safety and security, technical security and parking and transportation. The DPS is set on providing students, faculty and alumni with excellent security and safety through instant notification systems, extensive surveillance cameras and highly-trained staff.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.