Click here to print page

Assistance is given to US citizens during a crisis

Ask The US Embassy

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Q : What kinds of assistance will the embassy provide to US citizens during a crisis such as a hurricane or other event that may require evacuation to the United States?

 

The actions we take depend on the nature of the crisis. In some instances we may only need to provide information on conditions in the country, such as warning about areas of unrest, how and where to seek help, and other useful advice. In more serious situations we may recommend that US citizens leave the island and, if commercial transportation is not available, provide departure assistance as our resources permit.

 

Q: What departure assistance do you provide? Why do you tell US citizens they should leave, and then don't offer transportation?

 

The assistance we provide depends upon the nature of the crisis. Regularly scheduled commercial flights or transportation are always the best option when local communications and transportation infrastructure are intact and operating normally, even if we have advised all US citizens to leave. Our efforts are devoted to keeping the American community informed of developments and travel options

 

Q: What happens during an evacuation?

 

Each evacuation depends on the nature of the crisis. In extreme situations, where local infrastructure is damaged or severely compromised, we work with the host government, other countries, and other US government agencies to arrange chartered or non-commercial transportation for US itizens seeking to depart. This could include transportation by air, land, or sea. While we partner closely with the Department of Defence, military options are only used as a last resort. You should not expect the US military to assist you when we issue a travel warning advising you to leave a country.

 

Q: Why don't you use the US military in every evacuation?

 

We use the resources that are most expedient and appropriate to the situation. Expectations of rescue by helicopters, the US military, and US government-provided transportation with armed escorts reflect a Hollywood script more than reality. While some evacuations involve US military or other US government assets, most rely on commercial transportation and local infrastructure. Any level of departure assistance constitutes an enormous logistical effort.

 

Q: Will the US g overnment come and pick me up if I need assistance getting to the airport or other evacuation point?

 

Crises place an enormous strain on our resources as embassy personnel focus on assisting citizens affected by the crisis. Security conditions can also limit our ability to move freely around Jamaica. It is almost impossible for the US government to provide in-country transportation service to individuals or specific groups during a foreign crisis. You should, therefore, pay close heed to our travel and safety information for the country they are travelling to or residing in, monitor local conditions, and have a plan of action in case of emergency.

 

Q: Will the US g overnment pay for my travel? How much will it cost?

 

Departure assistance is expensive. US law 22 USC 2671(b) (2) (A) requires that any departure assistance be provided “on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable”. This means that evacuation costs are ultimately your responsibility; you will be asked to sign a form promising to repay the US government. We charge you the equivalent of a full coach commercial fare on a comparable mode of transportation at the time that commercial travel ceases to be a viable option. You will be taken to a nearby safe location where you will need to make your own onward travel arrangements. Typically you will not have an opportunity to select the destination to which we will take you; it will be to the nearest safe location (only in rare circumstances will that be to the United States). If you are destitute, and private resources are not available to cover the cost of onward travel, you may be eligible for emergency financial assistance.

 

Q: If I don't hear from the embassy can I call them?

 

Often our embassies and consulates abroad cannot handle the huge volume of calls that follow a major crisis. We encourage you to contact us using Task Force Alert (see below for more details), special e-mail addresses established for public inquiries during a crisis, or our US-based telephone number at 1-888-407-4747 (from overseas +1-202-501-4444).

 

Q: What if I don't have access to email orphone?

 

We know that Internet and cellphone service is sometimes interrupted during a crisis. Landline phones might also be affected. In such cases, we will use local television and radio to broadcast emergency information and may also use a system of pre-designated US citizen “wardens” to pass on information to other US citizens in your area. We also encourage citizens to reach out to family and friends outside the affected area to obtain information and relay messages to and from the task force handling the crisis at the Department of State. Don't underestimate the power of social media. Regularly updating your status through social media sites is an effective way to let your loved ones know how you are doing.

For more information about American Citizen Services, please visit our website at jm.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services. For safety and security reasons, the U.S. Embassy asks that all individuals arrive at the embassy no more than 15 minutes before their designated appointment time.

For more information about visas, please visit our website https://jm.usembassy.gov/ and the website of our authorised service provider at www.usvisa-info.com. Keep on top of Embassy news on our