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Inaugural Family Liaison Officer training equips Emory staff for crisis support
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Thousands of faculty, staff and students travel internationally for Emory University business or sponsored activities each year. The Office of Global Strategy and Initiatives' Global Safety and Security (GSS) unit aims to equip the university’s international travelers with the resources and trainings necessary to prepare for and navigate emergencies abroad.

In the event of an emergency, who engages with the international travelers’ loved ones back home?

To help answer this question — and after identifying a training gap for administrators who support global travel and respond to global incidents — GSS organized its first-ever Family Liaison Officer (FLO) training. During crisis events where emotions are high, FLOs play a vital role in connecting families and the organization, providing support to the families of travelers.

Held earlier this summer, the intensive training brought together representatives from various Emory departments, including the university’s Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP), The Carter Center, Emory Police Department (EPD), Rollins School of Public Health (RSPH), Emory School of Medicine, Campus Life, Office of Insurance, the Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) program and the Education Abroad Office.

The comprehensive training covered a wide range of topics, ensuring Emory personnel taking on FLO roles are well-prepared to handle the emotional, logistical and informational needs of families of university students or employees experiencing emergencies while abroad.

The first training day focused on foundational skills and concepts, emphasizing the importance of communication and documentation for effective FLOs. The second day provided practical experience through tabletop exercises and role-play scenarios, allowing participants to apply their new skills.

Chan Williams, assistant director for academics and operations in the MDP program, was able to put her newly acquired skills into action the day after training.

“When we sign up for trainings and conferences, we don’t usually expect to utilize the information immediately,” Williams says. “I’m happy I was able to implement the responses learned from the training section, and I had the support of my fellow FLO trainees.”

Participants left the training feeling empowered to navigate the delicate relationships with families during crises, including the important step of establishing rapport.

“We are responsible for building a foundation of trust and respect between all parties involved, gathering and disseminating information, and discerning which pieces of information to share with the families,” Williams says. “Not appropriately moving through these fragile pieces could cause secondary trauma.”

Williams also acknowledged the challenges of the role, noting the potential for emotional and mental strain. She is grateful for the community created through the FLO training.

“The FLO training was excellent,” says Gerald Clay, assistant director of career services and engaged learning in RSPH. “I suggest that everyone responsible for communicating with families during crisis situations take this course.”

The GSS team looks forward to offering more global safety and security trainings in the future, including collaborating with EPD. All will be open to any university employee working with people traveling internationally on behalf of Emory.

“It’s important for departments that support global travel to be in regular communication with GSS to remain aware of the resources and training opportunities our office provides,” says Kenya Casey, director of GSS.

For more information about Global Safety and Security and its services to the Emory community, contact Casey at

About the Global Safety and Security unit

In 2021, the Office of Global Strategy and Initiatives established the Global Safety and Security (GSS) unit to provide support for the safety of Emory faculty, staff and students traveling internationally for university-sponsored activities or business. GSS focuses on risk management and crisis response, university standards for traveling abroad and comprehensive consultations. Learn more on the GSS webpage.

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