Terror Alerts Also Mean Travel and Safety Risks

On May 1, 2011, President Obama announced that US armed forces killed Osama Bin Laden after nearly a 10-year worldwide manhunt. At almost the exact same time, the US State Department issued a worldwide travel alert. There's no better example of how an increased level of terror threat increases the risks of harm to Americans traveling and living abroad.

Know About Warnings & Alerts

The State Department keeps a running list of travel warnings and travel alerts any American should look at when planning to travel to another country:

  • Warnings mean there are long-term conditions or circumstances in the country making it dangerous for you to travel or be there. It also means the State Department's ability to help you while in the country are limited. The State Department urges citizens to avoid traveling to these countries or prepare for the risk
  • Alerts mean short-term conditions pose significant risks to your security. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, anniversaries of terrorist events and high-profile events like multi-national sports events may trigger an alert

Both warnings and alerts have expiration dates, but they're often renewed over-and-over again. For instance, there's been a travel a warning for Mexico since early 2010.

2011 Worldwide Alert

The State Department had immediate fears that Bin Laden's death at the hands of US forces might cause anti-American violence - revenge. In fact, some known terrorists vowed to do just that.

The alert urges Americans traveling and living anywhere outside the US to:

  • Limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels
  • Avoid large public gatherings and demonstrations
  • Stay current with media coverage of local events in their area and to be aware of their surroundings at all times

The alert is set to expire on August 1, 2011.

Take Steps to be Safe

Whether you're traveling abroad for short business trip or vacation or relocating to a foreign country for an extended period of time, there are things you can do to stay safe:

  • Check the State Department's travel warnings and alerts before your planned trip and monitor the site while you're in the country for any changes or emergency messages
  • Register your travel plans with the State Department. It's free, and if there's some kind of emergency, it'll be easier to find and help you
  • Make an itinerary of your trip with as much detail as possible. Flight numbers and arrival/departure times and dates; the location and telephone number of where you'll be staying; and a business, work or cell phone should be included
  • Know where the US Embassy or Consulate is and the fastest way to get there from your home or hotel
  • Keep your passport with you at all times. In the event of an emergency, you'll need it to prove your US citizenship to get help at the embassy or consulate
  • Keep your home or hotel room locked at all times. Contact local authorities or the embassy/consulate if you notice anything or anyone suspicious or out-of-place
  • It's not always a good idea to show your patriotism. Wearing clothing bearing the US flag or other American symbols may make you a target for someone looking to hurt a US citizen

People with anti-American sentiments and motivations typically don't target specific US citizens. Rather, ANY American will serve their purposes. Make it back home safely by knowing how to be safe while traveling or living abroad.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What should I do if my passport is stolen or lost while I'm in a foreign country?
  • Can I be fired for refusing to go on a business trip to a country that's on the State Department's warning or alert list?
  • Does my employer have any legal obligations or responsibilities to keep me safe while working in a foreign country?
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