SAFETY & SUPPORT
Safety is the number 1 priority on all Gapforce programs. Our programs are basic, potentially hazardous and should not be considered a conventional holiday, however with over twenty years’ experience we aim to reduce your level of risk compared to independent travel.
To guide us, we have been independently inspected to BSI8848 "Specifications for visits, fieldwork, expeditions and adventurous activities outside the UK". We are a Professional Association of Dive Instructors Education Centre. Gapforce is also a Duke of Edinburgh Award Centre. We are also members of Year Out Group, who set guidelines and policy for UK Gap providers,
Marcus Watts (our Founder) has been made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. The Year Out Group oversees quality Gap Year organisations. Marcus was Chair for 7 years of the Membership and Safety Committee overseeing and setting members safety. He was then elected Chair of the whole Year Our Group.
Dr Raj Joshi is our Medical Consultant. He has summited Everest twice along with the highest peaks on every continent. He is also employed by the BBC TV, having led their celebrity climb of Mt Kilimanjaro for Red Nose Day
Gapforce Expedition Leaders are a key element of our overall safety provision. Gapforce Leaders complete an intensive full time three month course, starting with Mountain Leader Training in Wales and followed up with a menu of international qualifications, soft skills training and a final exam planning and leading an international School group. Our leadership course is believed to be the toughest and most intense international school group leader course in Europe.
The Gapforce Expedition Leader Program ensures your Leaders are fully prepared to deliver an outstanding expedition. Further details on our Expedition Leader Training can be found here
BEFORE YOU GO
Safety starts at home. We have a comprehensive schedule of pre-trip safety checks, detailed below.
- Pre-departure documentation: On receipt of a group booking you will receive the necessary documentation needed to start planning for your trip.
- Medical: All participants are required to complete a medical form specifying any pre-existing conditions, confirmed and signed by their doctor. If there are any concerns about a student’s fitness to participate, our UK Operations Team will request further details. Each medical declaration is assessed by our own doctor, and your Trip Leader will be advised in advance about all relevant conditions.
- Kit & Equipment: Information is provided on the kit and equipment required for your destination and activities.
- Visa Requirements: All participants are offered guidance regarding potential visa requirements, and pointed towards online resources where possible.
- Briefing Session: Before the departure we provide a briefing day or webinar covering first aid, destination specific risks, kit, equipment, visas and program details.
- Risk Assessments: Risk assessments are carried out for each destination and activity and for any other associated risks. They are conducted by our in-country staff who visit the locations prior to the arrival of a group, which are then reviewed by the head office.
- FCO Know Before You Go: We are a member of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office “Know Before You Go” campaign and strictly follow their advice. If they advise against travel to a specific location then we will not go. If a threat alert occurs for a country in which a group is currently travelling we will immediately follow their advice and will evacuate if required. We have a 24 hour Operations Centre and direct communication channels with the Trip Leader at all times.
DURING YOUR TRIP
Throughout your trip, our procedures are in place and ready handle any emergency 24/7.
- Experienced and qualified leaders: You will be accompanied on your trip by one of our highly trained Expedition Leaders. All our Leaders have been through our rigorous four month training programme: two weeks in the Welsh mountains followed by three and a half months in the jungles of Costa Rica. During this time Leaders are taught and assessed on everything they need to know about running exciting and safe expeditions, and about how to respond in the event of an emergency. A detailed and layered evacuation procedure is in place based on priority levels 1, 2 and 3. Your leader is trained to quickly assess and act accordingly in any situation that arises, from mishaps in daily activities through to a change in the political situation of the country. Our Leaders are responsible for carrying out risk assessments before each trip.
- Local staff: We use the services of local staff, including co-ordinators, drivers, guides and project partners. They undergo a thorough screening process to ensure they are safe and reliable. In most cases Gapforce has been working with these staff for many years.
- Safety & orientation briefing: All participants receive a safety briefing from the Trip Leader within 24 hours of arrival. Your Leader will continue to advise on specific health and safety issues relevant to activities and locations throughout your trip. In remote locations groups are often given expert survival training. Staff members also undertake dynamic risk assessments throughout the trip. These are recorded in Gapforce’s ‘Near Miss Reporting’ and used to continually improve our knowledge of the environment and associated risks.
- Communication Procedure: Our Leaders are in constant communication with our UK Operations Centre throughout each trip. In remote destinations such as Belize & Borneo where there is no phone signal, they are equipped with Satellite phones and, in Belize and Borneo specifically, the latest EPIRB technology. This enables rescue workers to pinpoint a group’s location within seconds. Our UK Operations Team provides 24 hour emergency backup to all individuals and groups on a trip.
- Medical procedure: As part of our risk assessment we ensure that hospitals with good facilities are never more than 12 hours away.
- Evacuation Procedures: Evacuation plans for Medium, High and Emergency Priority are developed for all Gapforce trips. Each participant is required to have medical and evacuation insurance prior to departure. Leaders and our experienced office staff hold copies of these documents to access in an emergency situation.
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We are a UK regulated bonded travel operator. Call us for your full policy details, but here is a summary:
In accordance with the Package Travel, Package Tours Regulations 1992 all passengers booking with Gapforce (London) Ltd are fully insured for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of monies paid as detailed in your booking confirmation form.
This insurance has been arranged by Towergate Chapman Stevens through HCCI International Insurance Company PLC.
Contact us now to discuss your school group options: Click here