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STEP Program
    
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
by Mary Latham, President

With the turmoil in certain parts of the world and natural disasters occurring without warning, some people are hesitant to travel abroad. Friendship Force members will still travel, but they travel as informed travelers after fully evaluating the risks. A rumor is not enough to hold back a determined FF member. But what if something unexpected happens after you leave? What if there is civil unrest, or a revolution? What if a volcano suddenly erupts or there is an earthquake or other natural disaster? What if your family back home desperately needs to reach you?

How can I get help in an emergency outside the US?

One thing every informed traveler should do before departing or even buying a ticket, is check with the US Department of State (DOS) for any travel warning. Currently the DOS has advisories for Lebanon, El Salvador, Nigeria and North Korea. There is also a broad warning for all international travelers to exercise caution.

Conditions change suddenly so travelers need to keep up with what is happening even after they are abroad. An easy way to do that is to enroll in the DOS STEP program. It only takes a few minutes set up an account. Then you simply update information each time you travel. If you do not want to set up an account, you can register for one trip.

The nearest Embassy or Consulate will then know that you are in its area.

How will DOS help me in an emergency?

Once you have registered your trip, you will receive notices and information from DOS as conditions change in your destination country. When you are in the country, you will continue to get updates. Keep your mobile handy and charged. On our exchange to Santiago, Chile, last year, our members who had registered with STEP received notice of a student demonstration in downtown Santiago. Our members were then able to ask our hosts if this would be a problem for our activities that day as the group was touring downtown.

Other assistance from DOS will depend on the nature of the crisis. You may be advised to leave the country or seek shelter. If you are advised to leave you should use commercial transportation or follow DOS instructions. In extreme emergencies when commercial transportation is not available, DOS will assist with your evacuation. You will be transported to nearest safe location, not necessarily back to the US. And, one other thing, you must reimburse DOS for the cost of the evacuation in an amount of a commercial ticket. That is a small price to pay to be able to leave quickly and safely.

If you lose your passport, you can always go to the nearest Embassy or Consulate to get a replacement and if registered in STEP, the Embassy has your information and knows you are in the country.

How do I register for STEP?

This is only a summary of STEP. For more information or to register go to https://step.state.gov/step

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