CB2: Check In at the Embassy

Each new interaction I have with a government platform makes me think how it could be improved upon. This time it was my experience with travel.state.gov as I used their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to register last week’s trip to Colombia (see blog). For those of you not familiar with STEP, it’s important to let the State Department know when you’re traveling abroad in case there is an emergency where they need to get in touch with you – or get you out of there.

The form is a little cumbersome the first time you register as a traveler, but it covers all of the key points: who you are, where you’re going, why, who’s traveling with you, how long are you staying, who should be contacted in case of emergency, and how do you want to receive travel alerts. It looks something like this:

After going through this process I started my search for a mobile app that would enable me to instantly identify where the nearest embassy was, display travel alerts, and give me a way to contact them if I was in trouble. You tell me if I’m missing something, but my search came up empty.

If it’s not in the works already, I think it’s time for the State Department to put out an app of it’s own that does the following things:

  • Add a STEP travel itinerary through a streamlined mobile form
  • See nearby embassies
  • Check In to them as an even simpler means of letting the embassy know you’re there
  • Include what you’re doing, how long you’re staying and who you’re with
  • One-touch call and email buttons to contact the embassy
  • Use the phone’s GPS to send along your exact location with that communication
  • View important travel alerts (pushed to the device)
  • Go over safety tips for the area near you (aside: I received one saying don’t use an iPhone in public places because that identifies you as an American with money – good tip!)
  • Possibly add some helpful tools like a currency converter, locations of nearby hospitals, etc.

What else am I missing? Of course I couldn’t resist whipping up a screen shot of the app to your right – just as a visual, not an exact design.

Looking forward to your always-insightful comments below!



Read Last Week’s CB2: On Location at the Colombian Floods


About Chris Bennett (Jump to Online Resume)

Chris Bennett is a self-proclaimed emergency management innovator who is trying to make government better by improving citizen preparedness and crisis communications. He’s a graduate of Wharton with a master’s from Harvard with in “Technology, Innovation, Education.” His portfolio of companies and former projects include OneStorm Hurricane Preparedness, ReadyTown, GovLive, TexasPrepares and America’s Emergency Network. Chris was the recipient of FL Governor Crist’s 2008 Public Information Award. He lives in St. Petersburg, FL, loves to fish, and has been spotted sharing a pint with GovLoop Founder Steve Ressler in Tampa.

What does CB2 Mean? “Chris Bennett’s Crisis Blog.” It was originally CB Squared but the superscript 2 never took, so now we’re rocking the big 2.

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8 Comments

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Profile Photo Steve Ressler

Another suggestion – could be an internal app for employees. Security is always an issue and app could be on State employees phones who live in those countries. So if faced with a situation – could call for help quickly.

Profile Photo Brent Barker

IIn September 2009 the Department of State released an app called “Find Your Embassy.” You can use the app to locate the nearest Embassy or Consulate. It provides users with a map to find the location and contact information. It also provides access to State Department Travel Warnings and Alerts. The link to the app is

Profile Photo Chris Bennett

Thanks Brent. This covers at least half of what I proposed. The key thing that could be improved upon is (A) sharing your location with the embassy based on the phone’s GPS (not too difficult) and (B) registering your travel itineraries through the app.

The big roadblock with the current app (screenshot included) is that I couldn’t find it on Google – if I did I wouldn’t have written this blog. By being a mobile web app and not a native app, it’s not in the app store, and a Google search for “us embassies app” doesn’t get me there.

Thanks for your comment!

Profile Photo JC

Great minds!! We at the Department of State have begun development of an app geared to the American overseas traveler. Our app will include an itinerary feature, too, so you can save certain info for later reference. Be sure to visit http://www.state.gov — once it’s available (spring), we’ll advertise the app there as well as on our travel site at travel.state.gov . You might also be interested in news from the State Department, available via any hand-held device at m.state.gov.

Profile Photo Chris Bennett

Welcome to GovLoop JC and thanks for the comment! Keep us posted when it is out and we’ll do a follow-up feature on it to make sure everyone knows about the new app.

I have technology used by universities that for both web apps and native apps shares the caller’s location when they dial into campus security. I would suggest incorporating something this into your app as many overseas travelers wouldn’t know exactly where they are in an emergency.