Communicating with a loved one overseas can be complicated, especially during a large-scale crisis involving power outages or overwhelmed telephone lines that make sending and receiving calls difficult. If you are worried that your loved one was affected by a crisis, there are various ways to try and get in touch – and stay in touch.
- Send them a text message: U.S. cell phones do not always work overseas, especially when phone services are overwhelmed by a high volume of calls. Try sending your loved ones a text message – it is more likely to get through if they are in Wi-Fi range, even without local cell phone service.
- Use social media: Check all of their social media accounts for recent posts or comments. Some social media sites even allow people to “check in” if they are in or near a crisis location. Many sites allow you to send a private message, but you might want to post a public message so that others who might have information are able to see your message and respond. If you do post a public message, keep it general – remember, too much information can play into the hands of identity thieves and scammers.
- Contact travel companions and other close friends: Try to touch base with your loved one’s travel companions and close friends. Perhaps they know the whereabouts of your loved one and can pass a message, or have heard from your loved one since the crisis.
- Call the hotel, school, or organization: If you know your loved one’s itinerary, contact the current or next hotel on his/her planned trip and request that they ask your loved one to contact you. If your loved one is overseas for studies or work, his/her sponsoring organization in the United States or overseas may have information and be able to pass a message asking him/her to contact you. For privacy reasons, the organization may not be able to provide you with a lot of information, and some organizations may only be available during work hours.
- Communicate with tour operators: If your loved one is on a tour, contact the tour operator in the United States. It may not provide you with details because of privacy concerns, but it may pass a message.
- Call the local police: If you believe your loved one is in danger, call the police station or emergency services in the country that is local to where your loved one is staying, and find out what they can do to help. Each U.S. embassy and consulate provides local emergency numbers on their websites. Provide as many details about the person and his/her itinerary as possible.
- Consider reaching out to international aid organizations: There are a variety of international organizations that work to find people overseas. Consider reaching out to one of these organizations, which might have an established network of contacts in the crisis area.
- Contact the Department of State: We can be reached by phone at 888-407-4747 if calling from within the U.S. or Canada; or +1-202-501-4444 if calling from any other location. Check our travel.state.gov website for additional information – during a large-scale crisis, we may set up a crisis-specific email address which allows us to collect information more quickly when we have a large number of requests for assistance. In the event of a crisis, the U.S. embassy or consulate in the affected country works to identify and locate U.S. citizens needing assistance with help from local authorities. See our travel.state.gov page for more information on What the Department of State Can and Can’t Do in a Crisis