Students and others involved in excursions and outings should ensure that all procedures on safety are strictly followed.
IN the wake of the recent Korean Sewol ferry tragedy and the school bus crash in Hulu Langat, Selangor in March, there has been public outcry amidst the mourning and grief. The victims involved in both trips were mainly students, and while the finger-pointing continues, the fact remains that guidelines and safety measures were not adhered to.
There were 476 people on board on the ferry and there are claims that no proper evacuation exercise was in place and there were conflicting orders from the captain and the crew.
As for the local schoolbus tragedy, 34 students and their teacher from SMJK Katholik, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, were on a field trip when the accident happened.
There was one death and several injured students. According to the Fire and Rescue Department, the vehicle skidded while heading towards the Hulu Langat observation tower before turning turtle.
Police said initial investigations indicated that the brakes of the bus were malfunctioning at the time of the accident.
Under the circustances, it was obvious that the parties involved did not follow the stringent guidelines already in existence.
Mishaps and accidents like these are not uncommon. How and why did they overlook the regulations and basic safety procedures?
International SOS-Controls Risks Asia Pacific coordinating security manager Victor Chin says that the Korean ferry accident or the Hulu Langat bus crash might have been less drastic had the students or people in charge received proper safety training.
Chin says that every time he “revisits” the (Korean) ferry situation, it breaks his heart.
“We have some principles of personal safety that we encourage people to adhere to when they’re travelling. One of the most important ones is situational awareness.
“Be aware of what is happening around you and if something does not seem right, you should follow your instincts.”
“In the (ferry) incident, many of the students on board had the right instincts and were asking the right questions.”
Since investigations are ongoing, Chin says it is best to refrain from comment.
However, he points out that the training the company provides will help students, their chaperones or trip leaders manage situations better should they be caught in such accidents.
Although there are general safety guidelines for any trip, many companies that provide such services offer customised advice for each of their clients.
“We are very big on preventing problems before they happen, as opposed to just reacting when they happen,” says the company’s regional medical director Dr Greg Jakubowski.
For educational field trips, there are many different levels in which support can be provided for teachers and students.
“One of them is to investigate and then provide information on whether any of the teachers or students have underlying health problems,” says Dr. Jakubowski, citing diabetes and asthma as examples.
Their investigation will also include information on what medications might be required for the conditions.
Some locations might also have higher risks of certain diseases and there is a need to know what they are, as well as be aware of general transport and hospital conditions.
Such information is pertinent because if an emergency arises, the patient has to be taken or transported to the hospital, says Dr. Jakubowski.
Teachers or chaperones also need to make sure that they have the right training, which includes basic life support or first-aid skills.
This is all part of pre-trip preparation.
From a security standpoint, those planning the trip have to take into account regional issues as well.
Certain areas may be prone to natural disasters and field trip chaperones must be informed so that they are prepared.
Taylor’s University School of Architecture, Building and Design dean Tony Liew says that safety is definitely vital for the trips that the school’s students take yearly, which can either be local or overseas outings.
The students are screened and depending on the location, they may have to go for interviews at the embassy of the respective country.
If the varsity organises a trip, the travel agent will brief the students, but if the lecturers plans the outing, the onus is on them to update the students, adds Liew.
He says that the number of lecturers who act as chaperones depends on the number of students on the trip.
“We also have a very clear itinerary and they are told to follow it very strictly. The students also have their handphones, should there be an emergency,” he adds.
“After dusk, we tell them that we prefer if they don’t go out, but if they do, they have to inform a lecturer.
“We also try to arrange for the lecturer to stay on the same floor as the students.”
While nothing too serious has occurred during any of the trips, Liew says that there was one occasion when a student’s bag was stolen and they were able to sort matters out because they had the contact number of the Malaysian embassy.
They also advise students to purchase additional insurance.