The U.S. State Department has overhauled its travel advisory systems to "provide U.S. citizens with clear, timely and reliable safety and security information worldwide."
Under the new system, every country will have a travel advisory set at one of four levels:
• Level 1 - Exercise normal precautions: This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel. Conditions in these countries might differ from those in the United States and might change at any time.
• Level 2 - Exercise increased caution: Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the travel advisory. Conditions in any country might change at any time.
• Level 3 - Reconsider travel: Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the travel advisory. Conditions in any country might change at any time.
• Level 4 - Do not travel: This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government might have very limited ability to provide assistance. The State Department advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the affected country or leave it as soon as it is safe to do so; the State Department will also include additional advice for travelers in Level 4 countries.
In a statement, the government body said, "While we will issue an overall travel advisory level for every country, levels of advice might vary for specific locations or areas within a country. For instance, we might advise U.S. citizens to 'exercise increased caution' (Level 2) in a country, but to 'reconsider travel' (Level 3) to a particular area within the country."
The advisories will also provide clear reasons for the level assigned, using established risk indicators, and offer specific advice to U.S. citizens who choose to travel there, as defined here:
• C - Crime: Widespread violent or organized crime is present in areas of the country. Local law enforcement may have limited ability to respond to serious crimes.
• T - Terrorism: Terrorist attacks have occurred and/or specific threats against civilians, groups, or other targets might exist.
• U - Civil Unrest: Political, economic, religious and/or ethnic instability exists and might cause violence, major disruptions and/or safety risks.
• H - Health: Health risks, including current disease outbreaks or a crisis that disrupts a country's medical infrastructure, are present. The issuance of a Centers for Disease Control Travel Notice might be a factor.
• N - Natural disaster: A natural disaster, or its aftermath, poses danger.
• E - Time-limited event: A short-term event, such as an election, sporting event or other incident that might pose a safety risk.
• O - Other: There are potential risks not covered by previous risk indicators. Read the country's Travel Advisory for details.
The State Department added, "We will review and update each travel advisory as needed, based on changes to security and safety information. Additionally, U.S. embassies and consulates will now issue alerts to replace the current emergency messages and security messages. Alerts will inform U.S. citizens of specific safety and security concerns in a country, such as demonstrations, crime trends and weather events."
The department's redesigned hub for traveler information will host all travel advisories and recent alerts issued for each country; an interactive map in mobile-friendly formats also will be available. Country pages on the site feature all travel information currently available, including details about entry/exit requirements, local laws and customs, health conditions, transportation, and more.
To receive security and other important updates while traveling, U.S. citizens can enroll their travel plans in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, and follow the State Department on Twitter or Facebook.