Are you ready for a Medical Evacuation?

Last week, I found myself dialing Hong Kong more often than I clicked on my television. In the midst of managing a medical evacuation for an unexpected allergic reaction, I was reminded that a few simple preparations can prevent a difficult situation from becoming a traumatic one. Don’t let experience be your tutor when it comes to preparing for a medical evacuation. If you implement these basic principles, you’ll be ready for your own medical evacuation.

Acquire the correct insurance coverage. You’ll need two types of coverage for the short-term mission med evac scenario. The first is a policy that underwrites the costs incurred for health care. Many participants will have such a policy, but you should verify that it covers an incident occurring overseas. Second, you will need a policy that covers the cost of a medical evacuation or repatriation. This type of coverage pays to extract an injured individual from a remote location or for a registered nurse to accompany a patient back to the United States on a commercial flight. These expenses rarely are covered by a standard health insurance policy. In the midst of a critical situation, you don’t want to have to stop and ask, “How much would this cost?”

Establish leadership roles before an evacuation. It is very important to have clear lines of responsibility determined beforehand. Who will be the 24-hour point person to manage the incident? Who has authority to spend money on behalf of your organization? Who will communicate to constituents, concerned parties and potentially the news media? Who is in charge on-field, and who makes the calls stateside? The last thing you want to be doing in the middle of an emergency is figuring out who is supposed to do what. Make sure the people who are to function in these roles are equipped and accessible.

Gather the necessary information to respond. I recommend placing all necessary information for emergency response in one binder during a short-term mission trip. For example, in a medical evacuation scenario you likely would need the following pieces of information: participant’s full name, copy of passport, air itinerary, local address on the field, emergency contact name/phone numbers, insurance carrier with policy numbers, name/address of an on-field medical facility and phone number for your host or adult supervisor on the field. When you have to respond quickly and decisively, it doesn’t help to have this information on sticky notes or somewhere on your computer. It helps to have it all in one place that you can flip to easily.

Pay attention to spiritual needs and opportunities. Because an emergency requires a strong logistical response, this quickly becomes the focus of your time and attention. Be sure the spiritual aspects of a crisis are not left unattended. Remember to pray for the participant(s) and family members who are affected. Pray for personal growth, healing, intervention and salvation. Remember that a parent being informed of his or her child’s injury or disease is in a vulnerable place. If you are not the best person to care for parents’ spiritual and emotional needs, make sure someone is serving in that role.

Medical evacuation is only one adverse scenario that an effective short-term mission coordinator should prepare for. See more information about other types of insurance coverage to consider in the article “What types of insurance coverage do mission teams need?” We all hope these difficult situations will not arise, but experience tells us otherwise. Be prepared so you can prevent a difficult situation from becoming tragic.

-David Bosworth

Have any stories of NOT having the right insurance for your short term mission?


David BosworthAbout David Bosworth

David Bosworth has a passion for helping others organize effective short term mission trips. David is the Executive Director of STM Toolbox, a place where believers can network, collaborate and encourage one another in effective short term missions.

As a partner with, David is a contributing blogger for

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