School trip operators ramp up safety measures

School trip operators ramp up safety measures

Local operators running overseas expeditions for schools - including bigger players such as the one behind the recent ill-fated Mount Kinabalu trip - are making various changes to ensure that the trips are safe for the children in the wake of the catastrophe.

These include investing in tracking technology which alerts parents to the exact location of their young ones, sending their guides for wilderness and trauma management training, and including the possibility of natural disasters in their contingency plans.

Youth leadership training company Agape Group Holdings' chief executive Delane Lim said: "Some companies will wait for the Education Ministry to review the standard operating procedures before taking action but for us, there is no time to waste."

Outdoor adventure agencies are already feeling the impact from last Friday's quake.

Anglican High School cancelled plans for students to climb Mount Kinabalu on Monday.

Another school has axed a trip to Sabah in September even though the trip did not involve mountain climbing, said travel agency Transinex.

SilkAir said that since last Friday, it has received several requests from customers to cancel or postpone flights to Kota Kinabalu, especially during this month.

Agape will test tracking software on mountainous ground next month. Earlier this year, it tried out the technology for two land and sea trips.

IPC Tours, which conducts about 500 overseas school trips a year, is also beefing up its software to ensure connections in remote areas.

Currently, its system sends text messages to update the schools and parents of the various locations of students when they are abroad.

Camp Challenge, which ran last week's ill-fated expedition, said it will factor earthquakes into its risk assessment plans so trainers will be equipped with skills for quicker evacuation and information dissemination.

X-Trekkers, which takes about 100 students to Kota Kinabalu every year, said it will now highlight earthquakes in pre-trip briefings to parents. It will also closely assess the risk of quakes before trips and highlight what to do during one.

IPC Tours also intends to train its guides abroad on how to handle situations such as floods and fog.

Agape will do the same and get its guides to undergo wilderness first-aid training, which includes trauma management.

An average of 100,000 students here participate annually in various types of overseas learning journeys.

IPC director Raj Kumar said: "The recent Sabah incident... serves as a wake-up call for vendors to scrutinise their safety and crisis management protocols."

jantai@sph.com.sg

cherylw@sph.com.sg

 


This article was first published on June 10, 2015.
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