US State Department Revamps STEP: What it Means to International Travelers
The U.S. State Department has revised its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to better inform travelers of potential dangers abroad. Provided below is a summary of the updated STEP and what it means to international travelers.
STEP was amended in light of recent troubles affecting various parts of the world. Numerous natural and man-made disasters have caused chaos across the globe this year, with the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami claiming more than 25,000 lives and the Arab spring uprising resulting in thousands of casualties. Conflict in Libya is ongoing and many people in New Zealand and Australia are still struggling to come to terms with the earthquake and flooding that recently affected the countries.
STEP, which was formerly known simply as “Travel Registration,”
is the program that alerts U.S. travelers abroad of potential dangers such as earthquakes, tsunamis, extreme weather, acts of terrorism and civil unrest. STEP requires travelers to sign up for the program at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/. Once registration is complete, alerts – or “warden messages” – are sent to travelers via e-mail or SMS should problems arise.
The U.S. State Department’s revamped STEP acquires all relevant details from travelers (particularly their itinerary, and contact, hotel and passport information) during the registration process. The free-to-use service is available to all U.S. citizens abroad and, in accordance with relevant privacy laws, no personal information is disclosed to third parties without the consent of registrants. Personal details are deleted after a trip has been completed.
Although established with catastrophes in mind, STEP can prove useful in many situations.
For example, the program can help U.S. travelers get home after losing their passports or it can be used to contact citizens whose families have suffered emergencies.
The program also serves to facilitate efficient evacuations from trouble spots; however, registrants are required to sign a promissory note to reimburse the U.S. Government for evacuations made by commercial airline.
One particularly useful improvement made by the U.S. State Department is that of a new iPhone app for STEP. The “Smart Traveler” application is available for U.S. citizens abroad and is compatible with the iPhone, iPad (iOS 4.0) and iPod Touch.
The Smart Traveler provides Americans visiting countries such as Thailand, India and Japan with convenient access to travel alerts, weather warnings, news of potential dangers and so on. The app also locates U.S. Embassies and provides users with maps and information pertaining to the country in which they are travelling. The app provides a direct link for travelers to register with STEP.