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State Department Revamps Travel Warnings
Updated January 11, 2018 8:14 AM
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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - The State Department on Wednesday revamped its travel advisory warning system, installing a new ranking system aimed at making clear how safe or dangerous travel to a specific area may be.

Tom Squitieri of Talk Media News reports, the four-level ranking system starts with Level 1, which is "Exercise normal precautions," then increases in danger to Level 2 -- "Exercise increased caution," Level 3 -- "Reconsider travel," and Level 4 -- "Do not travel."

At least 11 countries are on Level 4: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Cuba, once a do not travel, is now Level 3; China is a Level 2.

"Over the years, we've come to recognize that sometimes our various documents were not readily understood," Michelle Bernier-Toth, Bureau of Consular Affairs Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary For Overseas Citizens Services, told reporters via teleconference.

"We needed to make it more accessible to people. We also needed to make sure that the information was more easily understood, putting it into plain language, making it clearer why we were ranking countries, why we were citing them as a threat or a risk, and making that very obvious to people," she said.

For each country that has a Level 2 or above, the warning will specify what the risks or threats are and why travelers may need to reconsider travel, exercise caution or not to travel at all. Those risks are spelled out with icons - C for crime, T for terrorism, U for civil unrest, H for health issues, N for natural disasters, E for time-limited events such as elections or major sporting events, and O for other.

"So it's going to be very obvious," Bernier-Toth said. "The new travel advisories will continue to provide what we used to call the country-specific information about things like entry requirements, special circumstances, health issues perhaps, road safety issues and things like that. That's still all there, but again, it's laid out in a format that is much more readily accessible, much more easily understandable, and I think far more actionable."

The State Department also issues specific alerts, such as a demonstration, a hurricane, or a terrorist incident alert. Those will continue to go out through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program as well as posted on the State Department website.

The threat level in a country is determined through a collaborative process that involves security experts, the intelligence community, host governments, our embassies and consulates.

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