Disasters are caused by natural hazards such as earthquakes, floods, landslides, drought, wildfires, tropical cyclones, tsunami and volcanic eruptions. Other types of disasters include terrorist attacks, armed conflicts, fires, oil spills, epidemics and vulnerabilities created by human actions.
Over the years, the occurrence, severity and intensity of disasters have exacted a heavy toll in terms of the loss of human lives and the destruction of economic and social infrastructure, not to mention their negative impact on already fragile ecosystems.
Crisis preparedness means planning and preparing for the many types of disasters and other crises that can occur while abroad. We cannot overemphasize the importance of being prepared. When a crisis or disaster strikes, you will only have the time to use the tools at your disposal. Planning and preparedness are essential.
You can find helpful information about crisis preparedness on the website of the Department of State, and the Ready website of the Department of Homeland Security, which also gives information about putting together an emergency kit on the Build a Kit page. We recommend that all Americans living in Hungary prepare and maintain a basic emergency kit.
Role of the Department of State
Among the highest priorities of the Department of State and our mission is the safety and security of locally-resident Americans overseas. We do not want American citizens to become unduly alarmed. These are precautionary measures only. Given the potential for acts of violence, terrorism, or anti-American demonstrations, we believe it is important for all citizens to maintain readiness for all possibilities in case of an emergency. We will attempt to promptly inform you of any significant developments and advise you accordingly.
The Department of State encourages all American citizens residing abroad to enroll their presence and obtain up-to-date information on security conditions at the nearest American Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) website. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency and enable you to receive up-to-date information on security conditions.
When a crisis occurs, the State Department sets up a task force or working group to bring together all the people necessary to work on that event in one set of rooms. Usually this Washington task force will be in touch by telephone 24 hours a day with our Ambassador and Foreign Service Officers at the embassy in the country affected.
Within a task force, the immediate job of the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs is to respond to the thousands of concerned relatives and friends who begin to telephone the State Department immediately after the news of a disaster is broadcast.
Families of U.S. relatives involved in a crisis can contact the Department of State through the Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management at (202) 647-5225.
Communicating in a Crisis
Keeping up with modern times and modern means of communication is important to us. Warden messages are sent out to the public through e-mail and are posted on the Embassy’s website. We will soon be introducing two new means of communicating with our Wardens and American Citizens in Hungary aimed at providing up to date information in the event of Embassy closure or other crisis.
The first of these means will be using text message (SMS) technology to instantly provide information to anyone enrolled with the U.S. Embassy, Budapest. While we will still use e-mail messages for periodic, routine updates, we realize that, in an emergency, a text message to a phone will get to registrants faster than an e-mail.
Secondly, we have established a profile on the popular social networking website Facebook. While Facebook may seem an unlikely place for us, it is a means for us to post up-to-the minute information in the event that we are unable to update our own website due to server failure or inability to access the Embassy. At the moment, the page is still in development, but we encourage any of you already registered on Facebook to become “fans” of the U.S. Embassy, Hungary and refer to that website, in addition to our traditional webpage, in the event of heightened security or crisis.