U.S. government’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) – Companies with global assignees and business travelers often provide safety and security benefits, such as travel tracking services and emergency evacuation programs, as part of their duty of care. This is especially true for employees going into countries where there are significant known risks, which can range from civil unrest and terrorist activity to a greater potential for natural disasters (for instance, hurricanes, typhoons, and earthquakes).

If the employee is a U.S. citizen, another option that can complement these services is the U.S. government’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

STEP, which is administered by the Department of State, has been around for a number of years. It evolved from the practice of registering at the local U.S. embassy or consulate either in advance of travel to a foreign country (back in the days of travel by ship) or upon arrival.

Through the current program, which is free, participants simply visit the STEP website to enroll a single trip or to create an account that can be modified as needed for multiple trips (the best option for frequent travelers and assignees living overseas). Information requested includes travel dates, passport details, email addresses and phone numbers, emergency contacts, etc.

STEP can also be accessed through the State Department app, SmartTraveler, and those without internet access can enroll by visiting a U.S. embassy or consulate in person or filling out a paper form and mailing it.

Once they’ve registered for STEP, participants receive the most current information for the country (or countries) specified, which includes security and emergency message updates from the U.S. Embassy as well as State Department travel warnings and alerts. STEP also enables the U.S. Embassy to contact participants in an emergency (for instance, if there’s an earthquake or terrorist attack), and helps family and friends get in touch with travelers and expats if they’re unable to reach them through normal channels.

In addition to the above, groups of travelers can be registered with STEP, with one person designated as the point of contact.

Want to know more? Check out the State Department’s STEP FAQ, which provides detailed information.