Preparing for Emergency Situations While Studying Abroad in the UK

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If you're gearing up to study abroad in the UK, you likely have many things on your mind - where you're going to live, what classes you'll take, what part of France you'll visit on spring break. Emergency preparedness is probably not as high on your list as, say, driving on the other side of the road and learning British slang. But questions that would come naturally to you at home, like where to call for an ambulance or what happens if you get sick, may not be readily apparent in a new country. You don't want the first time you think about how to refill a prescription to be when you've run out. This handy checklist will help prepare you for potential emergencies abroad and let you get back to researching weekend castle trips.

Health Insurance

The UK has the National Health Service (NHS), which is a public health system for residents. Students studying for more than six months in the UK, however, are required to pay a surcharge of 225 pounds per twelve-month period. This payment must be made during the immigration application process. Students in the UK for less than six months need to obtain health insurance from their home country. To use the NHS, students must register with a General Practitioner. Check with your University or College to see if there is a recommended GP or health center. Once registered, you will be sent an NHS card, which you should bring with you to the doctor, dentist or hospital.

Emergency Phone Numbers

Be aware that the emergency phone numbers in the UK are different from those back home. To reach the police, fire station or call for an ambulance dial 999 instead of 911. If you need to report a non-emergency accident or incident, dial 101. For non-urgent medical questions, call 111. In addition to general emergency numbers, program numbers for an adult from the study abroad program or someone you know in the area. Check out the sample emergency plan from the Center for Global Education to get a good idea of the types of contact numbers you should gather.

Important Documents

Before you travel, make copies of your passport, proof of identity, copies of your student residential status, credit cards and any prescriptions. Keep a copy with you and leave a copy at home. You can store copies on the cloud so they are always accessible. It goes without saying, but keep the original documents and the copies in a safe place.

Use Your Phone

For medical emergencies, in addition to knowing to call 999, you can protect yourself by setting up a medical ID on your smartphone. A Medical ID stores information about existing allergies and medical conditions and contact information in your phone in case of medical emergencies. For example, if you have an iPhone SE, you can fill out the medical ID information in the Health App and that information can be accessed even if your phone is locked. The iPhone will also allow you to send an Emergency SOS to emergency services without dialing, which may be useful if you are in a dangerous situation. To activate Emergency SOS, rapidly press the Sleep/Wake button five times and it will dial 999.


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