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Real ID Act to Pose Challenges for Many Travelers

by Lux Joseph 18. September 2015

Since 911, America has seen an increase in airport security and the process by which passengers need to follow in order to travel within the United States and abroad. These changes came about to increase safety and security for US Citizens, and the US government is continuing to work on making sure our safety is a high priority.

At Commercial Medical Escorts (CME), safety is also our number one priority. We pride ourselves on delivering the highest level of care, while keeping patient safety at the forefront of each and every decision that is made. We look into the safety of not only the patients, but also our escorts that serve on each mission around the world. As changes are made surrounding airline safety as well as travel requirements we ensure they have the most up to date information.

Since 2005, the US Government has slowly been implementing and enforcing a variety of new rules to traveling to comply with the 2005 Real ID Act. Beginning in 2016 there is a select group of states in which residents will be required to travel with a passport, even on domestic travel. Currently the following states that will follow under these guidelines are:

  • ·      Massachusetts
  • ·      Minnesota
  • ·      New Hampshire
  • ·      Louisiana
  • ·      Wisconsin
  • ·      New York
  • ·      American Samoa

The driver’s licenses and state IDs from the aforementioned states above are not compliant with the Real ID standards and this is why they are requiring those residents to travel with their passports. While all of our nurses, physicians, paramedics, and travel companions carry passports, this is not the case for all Americans.  It does not appear to be clear as to why the states above do not meet the requirements, but the US government believes this is a vital component of our national security framework that needs to be complied with at all levels.

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines on enforcement of the Real ID Act,

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on December 20, 2013 a phased enforcement plan for the REAL ID Act (the Act), as passed by Congress, that will implement the Act in a measured, fair, and responsible way.

Secure driver’s licenses and identification documents are a vital component of our national security framework. The REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government ‘set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.’ The Act established minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards.  The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and, no sooner than 2016, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.

States and other jurisdictions have made significant progress in enhancing the security of their licenses over the last number of years. As a result, approximately 70-80% of all U.S. drivers hold licenses from jurisdictions: (1) determined to meet the Act’s standards; or (2) that have received extensions. Individuals holding driver’s licenses or identification cards from these jurisdiction may continue to use them as before. 

Individuals holding licenses from noncompliant jurisdictions will need to follow alternative access control procedures for purposes covered by the Act.  As described below, enforcement for boarding aircraft will occur no sooner than 2016.”

Under the final phase, which will begin "no sooner than 2016," residents of "non-compliant" states will no longer be allowed to present state-issued driver's licenses as identification for air travel, but instead will be required to present "alternative forms of identification – such as a U.S. Passport." It is up to those states that are not in compliance, working with the federal government, to come up with a solution to this problem.

Implementation of REAL ID has been repeatedly delayed over the past 10 years to provide additional time for states to comply, and it is possible that further extensions could be granted. DHS has promised that before this final phase is implemented, it "will conduct an evaluation to inform a fair and achievable timeline. The date for implementing Phase 4 will be set after the evaluation has been complete; this phase will occur no sooner than 2016...DHS will ensure the public has ample advanced notice before identification requirements for boarding aircraft."

Given that not being able to use a driver's license to board an airplane for domestic travel could prove extremely disruptive to residents and travel businesses in the non-compliant states.

CME will continue to monitor this situation as it impacts our nurses, physicians, paramedics, and travel companions, but also the patients and their family members that we bring home. Prior to any transport, our team ensures that we check all travel documents to ensure you have all the necessary documents to ensure a smooth journey back to your home.

http://www.dhs.gov/real-id-enforcement-brief

Tips for Individuals Traveling Alone

by Lux Joseph 2. May 2014

Now more than ever, individuals are striking out and traveling for pleasure by themselves. From safety issues to cultural variations, individuals traveling alone encounter a variety of difficulties that can be avoided if the necessary precautions are taken. 

PLANNING

While it pays for all individuals to be educated travelers, it is especially imperative for those traveling alone to plan every step of their trip--from packing a suitcase to choosing a hotel room. Learning what to expect is the first step in preparing yourself for anything that could go wrong. As the old adage goes—“You never know!”

One of the initial steps to planning a safe and pleasant trip is learning as much as possible about your destination before you go.

Make sure your passport is valid, or if you don’t have one, apply for one at least eight weeks in advance of your trip.

While most travelers are aware of such travel hazards as robbery and hotel security, many don’t realize the potential risks of not adequately researching their destination.

When caught in the bustle of planning a trip, it is easy for travelers to forget that they can be directly impacted by a region’s religious and societal beliefs. In fact, some travelers might find themselves having to adapt their dress and demeanor to the customs of the country they are visiting.

For some destinations it is particularly important to dress conservatively. A travel agent can provide useful tips about an area as well as suggest travel publications that provide details about dress codes and other restrictions for travelers worldwide. Also, be sure to inquire about State Department information and travel advisories regarding your destination.  

PACKING

It is absolutely essential to make at least two copies of important travel and identification documents. Leave one back-up copy in your suitcase and the other with a family member or friend at home.

When traveling abroad include the address and telephone number of the U.S. embassy and consulate for each country on your itinerary in case you experience any difficulties.

Carry only one credit card, and don’t keep all your money in one place. Use covered luggage tags and write your office address rather than your home. Remember to always lock all suitcases and if you make a lot of purchases, consider having your luggage shrink-wrapped.

If possible, pack light so you won’t be weighed down and look weighed down, both of which make you an ideal target for pickpockets. Keep luggage and attire simple-- leave expensive-looking baggage (including camera bags), suggestive clothing, and jewelry home. Some travelers have stored such valuables as video cameras in diaper-bags to throw off would-be thieves. 

Plan to bring a tote that you can attach to your body or if you must carry a purse, take one that has thick shoulder straps and zippered compartments. If you’ll be carrying medication on your trip, carry an extra supply and a copy of the prescription in carry-on luggage.

The wise packer only brings necessities.

TAKE CARE OF HOME

When traveling, don’t forget to safeguard your home. If no one will be home for several days:

·         advise a trusted neighbor of your trip, or arrange for a friend to housesit,

·         set your lights on timers,

·         temporarily cancel newspaper delivery and ask the post office to hold your mail--a pile of newspapers on your lawn or an overflowing mailbox is a surefire way to announce that no one’s around.

 HOTELS

Another consideration for travelers, especially those traveling alone, is lodging. A travel agent can locate friendly hotels and book the safest room possible. Smaller hotels are often safest since the staff is more familiar with guests and more able to effectively monitor who enters and exits the building. Hotels on a well-trafficked street with an active nightlife will also fend away would-be thieves. Avoid “walk-up” style hotels.

When selecting a hotel, ask if they have staff available to escort you to your room late at night.

When requesting a room, keep in mind that ground floor rooms are more susceptible to break-ins than are higher floors.

Ask for a room near the elevators but away from stairwells and any renovation work. These allow intruders to easily access your room and hide if necessary.

Keep in mind you should never accept a room if the clerk loudly calls out your name and room number.  

Make sure the room’s door has both a peephole and a deadbolt. When given the option, store valuables in the safe at the front-desk rather than in-room safes--the main safe is usually better insured.

Hide more expensive clothes under other garments since robbers are most likely to steal what they can easily spot. If anything does get stolen, immediately ask management for help--most hotel theft is committed by staff.

TRANSPORTATION

How you will get from place to place—from your hotel to the convention center or from city to city--is also an important safety consideration. Travel agents can provide information on whether it is safest to rent a car or take public transportation. When traveling abroad, your travel agent can tell you if an International Driver’s Permit is required. Purchase maps and write out directions ahead of time. You want to learn as much as possible about getting around the streets so that you avoid looking like a lost tourist. 

Make sure to bring a cellular phone and car charger in case of an emergency.  If you must stop for directions, only do so at well-lit public areas. Lock all doors while driving and don’t keep any valuables on seats. Also keep maps discrete to avoid looking like a vulnerable tourist.

Reserving rental car through your travel agent also has its advantages in that agents can refer you to proven and trusted rental companies. At your destination, rental agents should always explain the car’s features, provide directions and, in a foreign country, brief you about international traffic signs and rules of the road. Avoid renting hatchbacks--luggage in the trunk can be easily seen. 

MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TRIP

Now it’s time to leave. A map of the area you will be visiting makes good reading material for the airplane. On an international trip, you might also wish to carry aboard a foreign language dictionary and highlight common phrases you’ll need when you reach your destination. Be prepared with questions about the area so you can ask the concierge about where—and where not—to go. In today’s world, many of these things are easily accessible on your mobile phone, but keep in mind that you may not have wireless or single immediately upon landing. Having a guide right at your fingertips is key to success.

As you begin your journey, you’ll find that the most valuable safety tip is to trust your instincts. You might feel silly, but better safe than sorry. If anything does happen, contact the police immediately, if traveling abroad contact the U.S. Embassy, and save all documents--insurance companies will need them.

Your trip will be more fulfilling if you try to meet with some of the locals. Travelers will find that people all over the world are eager to share their unique experiences and cultures and hear all about yours. Also keep an eye open for tour groups or tour guides who could really offer some inside information about what the area has to offer.

Cruises are a great choice for solo travelers who want safety and security with a lot of fun and nightlife and some cruise lines will even pair up single travelers in a cabin to help keep the cost down.

The more you travel, the more confident you become. So get packing and don’t forget to call your travel agent to make your travel experience hassle-free and as safe as poss


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