US Issues Worldwide Travel Alert - Should You Be Worried?
A few days ago, quiet rumblings from expats in the Middle East alerted us that something could be amiss. Whisperings about embassy closings and high security alerts weren't immediately alarming, but indicated that something could be happening.
It appears those concerns were warranted as the U.S. State Department issued a worldwide travel alert, particularly significant in the Middle East and North Africa, on August 2nd.
The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula. Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August.
The department warns about use of public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure in the targeted areas. U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling.
Britain has followed the US's lead, announcing it would close its embassy in Sanaa, Yemen on Sunday and Monday. The Foreign Office said it was doing so in "response to a specific threat." The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office warns against "all travel to Yemen and strongly urge British nationals to leave now".
What You Should Do
At this point, the Travel Alert expires on August 31, 2013, but the truth is there are always fears and threats when living abroad. Expats like Dan and Vanessa from Sautéed Happy Family (as well as many other expats in South Korea) often field questions about their safety in a country that is constantly under threat from it's northern neighbor. They explained how they manage these concerns in our article,
We've also covered similar situations in our article Expat Evacuation where we provided information on how to be prepared for emergency and National Emergency Organizations.
The Department of State encourages U.S. citizens living overseas or planning to travel abroad to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to be kept up to date with important safety and security announcements. Enrolling will also make it easier for the Embassy to contact you in the event of an emergency. Americans living abroad are encouraged to read the U.S. State Department's Living Abroad Tips.
Travelers and expats may also obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from abroad on a regular toll line. These numbers are available from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Friday, Eastern Time (except U.S. federal holidays).
Refer to the safety sections of our expat guides for lists of embassies and consulates and emergency services, as well as the US Department's updates and specific travel warnings.
For now, it seems best to carry on with caution. There is no reason to stop living for your life for what could be.
The United States is reopening 18 of the 19 American embassies and consulates it closed due to an undisclosed terrorist threat. The only embassy to remain closed will be the one in Sanaa, Yemen.
Have the closures or warning affected you or your family? Let us know what questions, concerns, or information you have about the situation in the comments below.