State Department issues a rare ‘worldwide caution’ alert to all overseas Americans
As the Israel-Hamas war continues to escalate, the U.S. State Department issued a “worldwide caution” alert to American citizens on Thursday.
“Due to increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,” the statement reads.
It’s the first worldwide alert released by the department since August 2022, after a U.S. drone strike killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Both messages are directed specifically toward Americans who are traveling or living abroad, with Thursday’s alert outlining three steps that citizens overseas should take: Stay alert in areas frequented by tourists, follow the Department of State on Facebook and Instagram, and enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
STEP is a long-running protective measure for U.S. citizens outside of the country. It connects enrollees with alerts from the U.S. Embassy about safety and security situations, as well as sending messages about embassy events and services. Additionally, STEP can help the embassy provide assistance during emergencies or relay urgent information from family and friends. To sign up, users need to provide some personal details, including emergency contacts and an outline of their travel plans.
Beyond keeping travelers in touch with the embassy, STEP also sends notifications when a travel advisory has been updated in the United States. The advisories are intended to keep Americans up to date on current events in other regions and offer guidance on whether it’s safe to travel to those areas at a given time.
In the past, this resource was criticized for being complicated and difficult to follow. The State Department responded in 2018 by simplifying it to a four-level structure, with Level 1 denoting a relatively calm state of affairs and Level 4 recommending a complete halt in travel.