Saturday, October 8, 2016

STEP Program

Pic from STEP web site

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is under the US Department of State.

What it is -    
"The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate" 

Benefits for you -    
-Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.  
-Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.  
-Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.   
Pic from STEP web site

Here is how it works -
I created an account/ profile.  Then I Enrolled a Trip.  Basically I said we were traveling to Trinidad and used that day as the start of the trip.  I left the End Date - Unknown.  Purpose - Pleasure.  Contact - my mobile phone number.  For Address I put Other - Coral Cove Marina.  City - Chaguaramas.  Country - Trinidad.  It then says - Thank you for enrolling.  This triggers a notification to the US Embassy in Trinidad that we are in country and enrolls us for email alerts.  Don't worry, your inbox won't be overflowing with emails.  I have only received a few and those are informative and timely.

What type of emails will you get? -
I got an email yesterday with great information about absentee ballots.  It seems here in Trinidad the US Embassy will take your election ballot back to the US and deposit it into the US mail for delivery to your home election office.  The email gave the details and deadline.  Last December the week before Xmas, I got an email giving the holidays hours for the Embassy as well as suggestions for staying safe during the holidays season.  The same was true the week prior to Carnival this year.  Last year I  also received an email alerting us that there had been a gas explosion at a filling station and that specific roads were shut down because of it.  We were not even aware of the explosion but regardless, it was nice to know it was an accident vs finding out later and wondering if it was perhaps a bomb.  When we were in Tobago, I got notification that the US Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago would be in Tobago for an open "townhall style meeting" with US citizens.  We didn't end up going as it was some distance from our anchorage but I think that would have been an interesting meeting to attend.  In addition to those types of emails, as the web site mentions, you might also receive notifications on dangerous weather, emergencies, civil unrest or other.

So far, I have been impressed with this program.
Pic from STEP web site

Final note -
I took a little time to research online the various US Embassies like;  Trinidad, Grenada, Barbados (this one is a regional embassy for several eastern Caribbean islands) and Guyana.  I then programed the main contact number and email into my cell phone under US Embassy- Trinidad, US Embassy - Grenada and so forth.  This way we have easy access to those numbers in case of any emergency.  In many cases it even gives the name of the US Ambassador in country.  I put that name in the notes section of that contact.  Additionally, I have programmed contact info into my phone of key locals.  For example, in Trinidad Jesse James is THE go to guy for us yachties.  I have his cell and email programed into my phone.  Two years ago I was in Port of Spain by myself.  I was trying to get a Maxi Taxi back to Chaguaramas.  I waited and waited and waited at the Maxi Taxi station.  NONE were going to Chaguaramas.  It seems there was a water main break, the road was down to one lane and traffic was backed up for miles and miles.  The Maxi Taxi drivers would not go out to Chaguaramas because it meant hours to get back and thus no additional runs i.e. - no money.  After 2 1/2 hours of waiting I realized this was really bad.  Luckily, I had Jesse's cell programmed into my phone.  Six other cruisers walked up to the Maxi Taxi station as I was texting him.  He sent a driver for us.  We got home two and half hours after I sent the text.   

If you are going to travel abroad, think about signing up for STEP and programming key contact info into your phone. 

1 comment:

  1. Good to know. This will definitely come on handy if we end up going to Mexico.

    SV Kintala