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Worldwide Travel Alert! Yawn…

Predictably, if somewhat invisibly and ineffectually, the U.S. State Department this week issued a Worldwide Travel Alert, warning of “possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats.”

For anyone paying even scant attention to the coverage of terrorist attacks over the past two weeks, the alert contains little in the way of new or actionable information. As for specific recommendations, the Department counsels as follows:

U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowded places. Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events. U.S. citizens should monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities. Persons with specific safety concerns should contact local law enforcement authorities who are responsible for the safety and security of all visitors to their host country.

In other words, monitor the news, and exercise common sense.

There is one productive recommendation included in the warning: Overseas travelers should enroll in STEP, the State Department’s smart traveler enrollment program. Once enrolled, travelers will be sent alerts and warnings, and receive easier access to overseas U.S. embassies and consulates.

Overall, though, the alert has the feeling of a token gesture, designed more to defend the State Department against accusations of inaction in the event of future attacks than to protect travelers. In fairness, perhaps a tepid, overly general warning is all we should expect under the circumstances.

In any case, the take-away, while obvious, is worth reiterating: When traveling overseas, pay attention and be cautious.

Reader Reality Check

If you hadn’t read about it here, would you have been aware of the State Department’s alert?

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