Kelly Pilleux-Petronia, the guest author of today’s blog post, is the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) field representative for Territory 30, serving the Chicago, Illinois, region. She served as a designated school official (DSO) for over 10 years before joining SEVP’s Field Representative Unit in 2014.
In today’s blog post, Ms. Pilleux-Petronia provides DSOs with information they can share to help F and M international students prepare to maintain their status during emergency events.
As a DSO, you play an important role in helping F and M students prepare for and respond to emergencies.
By preparing for emergencies with your students, you help build a more resilient school that is better positioned to respond to a disaster and recover quickly.
To help your F and M students prepare in case of a natural disaster or other emergency event:
- Advise F and M students of the school’s continuity of operations plan, and how and where they can find more information.
- Create and test a communications plan between you and your students, keeping in mind they may be limited in their contact with you if communications are disrupted.
- Remind students to sign up for notifications from your campus’ alert system.
- Encourage students and their dependents to keep their important travel documents (for example, their valid passport; Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status;” I-901 SEVIS Fee receipt; financial documents; insurance; credit cards; cash; etc.) in a safe, secure location where they can easily access them in the case of an emergency evacuation.
- Introduce your international students to your campus and local law enforcement in advance or through orientation to ensure students understand the law enforcement entity’s role and approachability.
- Help students understand how to maintain status and use pre-established communications protocols with DSOs during an emergency.
- Familiarize students with the SEVP Response Center (SRC); SRC is available to serve as their point of contact and provide emergency contact services during disruptions.
Want more emergency preparedness resources to share with your international students? Encourage them to visit Ready.gov, which offers emergency preparedness information in 12 languages besides English. You can also recommend that students download the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) mobile application and follow FEMA on social media.