- Before an Evacuation
- After an Evacuation
The possibility of an abrupt departure that could require the need to shelter in place as a response to a crisis is ever present for US. Government employees and their families posted overseas. Being as prepared as possible will help you maximize your responsiveness over the situation.
- Be familiar with the host country – Get acquainted with the types of crises that are common in the region. This knowledge is essential to guide efforts to prepare for an emergency overseas. The Foreign Service Institute Transition Center offers security and life skills training.
- Have a plan – Every family member and/or member of household should have an emergency plan that includes post-specific emergency contact numbers, directions to rally points and information on how to communicate during an emergency as well as addresses of friends and other embassies who can assist in an emergency. Make sure the CLO and Human Resources Officer (HRO) have personal contact information (email and phone) for you and your dependents. Provide your immediate/extended family and friends with the 24/7 emergency number for the State Department’s Operations Center 1-202-647-1512. For more information on making a personal preparedness plan go to the website. Do not forget to have a plan for your domestic employees and pets. For more information about pets please visit the TC Pets and International Travel website.
- Organize your personal affairs – Regardless of your family size, you should have your legal, financial and medical affairs in order. Contact the Department’s Employee Resource Program, and ask about the Enhanced Legal benefit which offers assistance with a lawyer to discuss options for preparing important documents.
- Establish individual credit cards for emergencies – Consider access to an individual credit card for each adult in the household with at least $10,000 to cover cost associated with a sudden departure from post. There is no direct billing for temporary housing during an evacuation and it may take an average of 30 days to receive voucher reimbursement. U.S. direct hires may also talk with their agency/bureau about getting a . A government travel card may be placed on “evacuation status” which can provide additional assistance during an evacuation.
- Purchase medical and evacuation insurance for Members of Household (MOH).
- Purchase personal property insurance for your storage and household effects (HHE), make sure it provides adequate coverage for all events including flooding and acts of war. Keep a digital inventory of your possession at post, as well as those in storage.
- Have ready to hand carry important documents – Visit the List of important Documents for more information.
Whether you are sheltering in place or asked to move to a safe location, having a 72 hour kit, that is portable and easy to find, will ensure you have what you need in an emergency situation. The kit should include: a three-day supply of nonperishable food and water per person, a flashlight with extra batteries, change of clothes, medications, cash, a first aid kit, sanitary and toilet supplies and important documents. If you have children also include, small games/toys for entertainment purposes. Guidance for putting together an emergency kit can be found on website.
A “go-bag” is just as it sounds, the bag you will pick up when you are ready to leave post. You can have a go-bag prepack or you can print a list of items for packing your bag just before you leave. Each member of the family should have a bag that is manageable for them to transport. Include in your bag all the documentation mentioned above, weather appropriate clothing, work appropriate clothing, something to entertain (toys, games, books, etc.), some snacks and water, necessary medical items such as drug/eye glass prescriptions and medical records, toiletries and sanitary items, cell phones and power cords, cash and credit cards, and other items that can sustain you for a short while.
During any tour, a crisis can occur which requires the employee to work long hours. Arranging for the child to stay with friends reassures the child and allows the employee to concentrate on his/her job. Some crisis situations may require the sudden departure of family members and non-emergency personnel. Tandem couples with children and single parent employees should determine early in their assignment if they are designated emergency personnel. Depending on the employee’s position and the circumstances at post, it may be possible for a parent, with permission, to accompany the child(ren) to the safe haven. In other cases this may not be possible.
As a contingency plan, the parent(s) should consider identifying an official American employee or American family member who is willing to take care of any issues that may arise when the parent(s) is/are unable to be physically present. This person must be able to assume responsibility for the care of the dependents, authorize medical treatment, and accompany the minor child on a medevac or evacuation from post.
Discuss with long, and short, term providers the responsibilities and liabilities for caring for your child(ren). Try to cover as many possible scenarios as you can think of, discussing and deciding on how the provider should respond.
During evacuations, GCLO is the Department’s main point of contact for evacuees, providing guidance on allowances, regulations, housing, education and employment for family members. We coordinate with post management, regional bureaus and other offices to support the evacuated community. For questions about evacuations contact us at GCLOAskEvacuations@state.gov.
- If evacuation becomes a reality you will follow the emergency evacuation plan for your post. Post will prepare your travel orders.
- Before proceeding to your evacuation point, ensure that visas to enter the U.S. and all passports for non-U.S. citizen family members are in order. Be prepared for a possible interim stopover.
- If you are able to travel via commercial aircraft, check the airline’s baggage restrictions. If the flight is on a DOS charter plane then you may be restricted to one checked bag and one carry-on. Make your carry-on your “Go Bag” with all your important documents, prescription medications, toys, wipes, water, snacks, cash, change of clothing, comfort items, as well as reading material.
- There are two kinds of evacuations: authorized departure and ordered departure. Both are requested by the Chief of Mission (COM) and approved by the Under Secretary for Management. Under an authorized departure, designated employees and/or eligible family members (EFMs) may choose to leave post. Depending upon how events unfold, this may eventually transition to ordered departure. Under an ordered departure, designated employees and EFMs must leave post. There is no difference between authorized and ordered departure in terms of the benefits or allowances provided to those evacuated.
In an evacuation situation, the Under Secretary for Management might designate the U.S. or a foreign location as the official safe haven. Depending on the situation, the official safe haven could change during an evacuation. It might start out as a foreign location and then, at a later date, change to include the U.S. as an option.
If the official safe haven is the U.S., family members may choose any location in the United States. They do not necessarily have to choose their home leave address.
When deciding on a safe haven location, family members may want to consider the following options and the pros and cons of each.
- The Metropolitan Washington, DC Area: If the employee is evacuated, she or he must report for duty at the agency headquarters, usually Washington, DC In this case, family members may wish to choose Washington as their safe haven point. Family members earlier evacuated to a U.S. or authorized foreign safe haven may be permitted to rejoin an employee subsequently evacuated and reporting to duty in Washington, DC.
- Other Locations in the U.S.: Often the most important factor for evacuees in making the safe haven decision is where their network of support is located. If family and friends are located on the other side of the country from Washington that may well be the best safe haven for the evacuee.
- Foreign Safe Haven: Some family members born outside of the U.S. may prefer to return to their home country for family support. Post may request a foreign safe haven for a family member from the Department of State. If the request is approved, the evacuee will receive a Subsistence Expense Allowance based on the lower of the following: the locality to which s/he is evacuated or the standard CONUS rate. If the request was not approved, the evacuee cannot officially travel to or receive evacuation benefits in a foreign location.
- Changing Locations: Once the evacuee has arrived at the safe haven location, he or she will not be funded for travel to another location during the period of the evacuation. Sometimes family members wish to move from one location to another during the evacuation. While doing so will not affect Subsistence Expense Allowance payments, the evacuee would be responsible for paying for the travel involved.
When choosing a safe haven there are many factors to consider:
- Proximity of support from family and friends
- Cost of available housing
- Transportation availability
- Recreation availability
- Ability to be in touch with information from Washington or the post
Be sure to hand carry these documents! Some of the frequent requirements for registering a child in school in the United States are:
- Records from a previous school
- Record of inoculations
- Recent TB test for people coming from overseas
- Physical exam within the last 12 months. (The Foreign Service medical exam is sometimes accepted – Virginia forms are available from GCLO)
- Birth certificate
- Proof of residence (Your temporary residence at a hotel should be sufficient)
Parents of school age children additionally need to consider the availability of schools that would be appropriate for their children.
- Does it matter? If your child would only miss a short amount of school, would you even consider registering him or her in another school? For a younger child you may just prefer to do homeschooling to keep up with schoolwork, or fun activities to continue interests in math and reading. If the school is closed at your post, a contingency plan should exist that will give direction regarding make-up work and a projected schedule for the reopening.
- What if my child needs to complete coursework or the evacuation is extended for several weeks or months? You will have to decide at what point you would prefer to have your child enrolled in a regular school program. There are no additional educational allowances made available for schooling at a safe haven in the U.S. or abroad. It is assumed that while you are in the States your child will attend the public school where you are staying. If your child is already receiving an away from post allowance for boarding school, you will continue to receive the allowance until the end of the current school year.
- Where should I stay in order to make sure my children can attend school should the need arise? When choosing your safe haven check into the availability of schools that would accept your child. If your child is involved in programs which are not offered everywhere (International Baccalaureate (IB), or AP classes, advanced levels of math, science or languages, or is receiving special services) be sure the program your child requires is available and would be able to accept your child. In the Washington, DC area the school districts are generally understanding of such evacuation needs. Outside of the DC metropolitan area check directly with the local school district. The Global Community Liaison Office and the Office of Overseas Schools are available to provide assistance if you have difficulty enrolling a child on a temporary basis. Knowing the school system is available to meet your children’s needs is a wise investment of your time when choosing a safe haven.
- How do I register my child at a school? Check Education Options for Foreign Service Children (K-12) for contact information on schools in the Washington DC area. Each school jurisdiction’s website will include information on how to enroll your child.
- Is there any assistance to register my child? If you have any difficulties registering a child in a school you may contact the Global Community Liaison Office or the Office of Overseas Schools (202-261-8200). Suggested letters can be sent from the GCLO which might ease the registration at a school in the United States.
- What if my child is enrolled in an International Baccalaureate Program? Many schools in the Washington Metropolitan area offer IB programs. Check the compatibility with the program at the school your children are attending. If you have already signed up for IB exams, the exams are the same worldwide and should be transferable to another location. Parents should carefully consider temporary housing near an appropriate high school if requiring continuation of an IB program. For more information see Choices for High School: IB and AP.
For more information or with specific questions contact the Education and Youth Officer at 202-647-1076 / 1-800-440-0397 or GCLOAskEducation@state.gov.
Important Factors for Tandem Couples to Consider When Choosing a Safe Haven
- Children’s needs and ages
- Child(ren)’s comfort with caregiver and caregiver’s willingness and ability to adequately care for the child(ren)
- School (including for Special Needs Children, acceptance of the Individual Education Plan (IEP))
- Education: Note that there is no education allowance in the United States or at an alternate foreign safe haven. Be sure to hand carry all school records and make sure they are up to date.
- Financial: It is important to consider the financial arrangements with the individual who may be caring for your child.
- Communication: During a crisis it may not be possible to make regular phone calls or email. Discuss this with the child in advance.
Through contingency planning, the parent can provide a supportive and understanding environment for the child evacuee that will lay the foundation for the child and parent to work through the crisis and move together toward a period of positive growth.
Certificate of Acceptance as Guardian or Escort and Travel Authorization letters: Exit control laws of the host country may affect whether or not the U.S. citizen minor will be permitted to travel. In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated new procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child’s travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if they are not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate easier entry/departure.
Special Instructions related to the Execution of Powers of Attorney: Creating a limited Power of Attorney (POA) may be a way to help a child leave the country with only one parent, another adult, or travel to the child’s final destination. Whether the child is traveling alone or not, the caregiver receiving the child should have the ability to make legal or medical decisions. Have plenty of notarized copies of a POA in case you need to leave it on file with a department or institution.
Special Considerations for Singles with children: A power of attorney will not allow the provider to enroll/ register the child(ren) for services that the child(ren) would not be eligible for under the care of their parent(s). For singles who are divorced, you should consult with a lawyer and determine whether you need extra clarification as to the care of children in case you are incapacitated.
The purpose of evacuation benefits is to help offset added expenses incurred as a result of an evacuation. The employee continues to be personally responsible for normal family living expenses.
Civilian Employees of the U.S. Government, Marine Security Guards, Seabees under Evacuation Orders
The Department of State Standardized Regulations (DSSR Chapter 600) applies to all government civilians in foreign areas; however, each agency may have further implementing regulations. Employees should check with their agency’s HR or other point of contact for further guidance before applying the DSSR (for foreign affairs agencies, consult the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM).
Department of Defense and Uniformed Military Personnel
Uniformed military personnel and their dependents are covered separately under the Department of Defense Joint Federal Travel Regulations. Assigned DOD civilians, military, and family members should contact their parent organizations. Those assigned to the Defense Attaché Office should contact DIA Headquarters; or reach out to DASSupportServices@dodiis.mil, and those assigned under the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (Military Group, ODC, etc.) should contact their Combatant Command.
Members of Household
Members of Household (MOH) who have elected to leave post are not authorized evacuation benefits; however, the Global Community Liaison Office (GCLO) encourages them to remain in contact with GCLO, the Community Liaison Office (CLO) coordinator, and the community at post. MOHs can participate in informational sessions and stay informed through emails and other communications.
Subsistence Expense Allowance (SEA) Overview
Evacuees should wait until they are at their safe haven location to submit the Subsistence Expense Allowance forms. NOTE: Airline tickets and lodging receipts are necessary for completing the application. Applications cannot be processed without them. Forms may be emailed or faxed per the instructions on the application form. (Instructions for how to apply for SEA are addressed in the next section)
SEA is payable the day after you arrive at the authorized safe haven point for up to 180 days following the date of the evacuation order. The initial SEA payment is made once the initial application (DS-4095) is approved. Subsequently, only lodging receipts are required and will be processed every 30 days during the evacuation.
When the U.S. is designated as the official safe haven, the SEA is based on . The first evacuee of a family unit is reimbursed for lodging expenses based on either a commercial or non-commercial rate. Larger families (first evacuee plus 4 or more family members) may request a waiver asking that commercial lodging per diem be increased to 150%. Justification must be provided.
Rates for Commercial Lodging
L = Lodging portion of per diem.
M&IE = Meals and Incidental Expense portion of per diem.
|Days 1 – 30||Days 31 – 180|
|First Evacuee||100% L + 100% M&IE||100% L + 80% M&IE|
|Each additional person 18 & over||100% M&IE||80% M&IE|
|Each additional person under 18||50% M&IE||40% M&IE|
|Rates for Non-Commercial Lodging|
|First Evacuee||10% L + 100% M&IE||80% M&IE + no lodging per diem|
|Each additional person 18 & over||100% M&IE||80% M&IE|
|Each additional person under 18||50% M&IE||40% M&IE|
SEA will continue to be paid during periods of annual and sick leave (except when in medical evacuation status) to employees and family members who are in evacuation status. SEA will not be paid to employees and family members on TDY, home leave or R&R orders. Family members who are employed at post should be placed in Leave Without Pay (LWOP) unless they are eligible to work while in evacuation status from another location.
Alternate Foreign Safe Haven
When an alternate foreign safe haven is approved, SEA can be authorized when the Bureau’s Executive Office in the Department receives the request for an alternate safe haven. SEA is based on the lowest of the following:
- The standard CONUS rate;
- The per diem rate for the official safe haven (foreign or U.S.); or
- The per diem rate for the alternate approved safe haven.
Unaccompanied Air Baggage (UAB)
An air freight allowance will be authorized for both evacuation from and return to post in accordance with the current agency travel regulations — DOS Standardized Regulations (DSSR) 631 a (3).
- 250 pounds for the first evacuee
- 200 pounds for the second evacuee
- 150 pounds for the third evacuee
- 100 pounds each for the fourth or more family members
In lieu of airfreight, a replacement allowance is authorized if air freight is not shipped from post. Air freight is authorized upon return to post, even if no air freight was shipped from post.
- $250 for the first evacuee without family
- $450 for the first evacuee with one family member
- $600 for the first evacuee with two or more family members
Note: If UAB has already been shipped to post, but the employee has not yet arrived, additional UAB will not be authorized.
Daily Transportation Allowance
A daily transportation allowance of $25 per day per family is allotted to offset costs due to lack of private transportation at your safe haven location (no receipts are required).
Reimbursement for lease expenses not to exceed the daily SEA lodging rate may be authorized for up to 30 days from the effective date of the evacuation provided the following:
- SEA payment does not exceed 180 days
- Evacuee is returning to post
- The lease was signed prior to the date of termination of the evacuation
- The evacuee provides documentation demonstrating an effort to break the lease
In the evacuation cable, post is authorized to issue a one-time, initial payment of $1,000 per family and $500 per single evacuee. The advance payment may be paid to the employee or a designated representative and will be deducted from the first SEA payment.
Household Effects (HHE)/Personally Owned Vehicle (POV)
Access to and delivery of stored household effects for evacuees is at personal expense unless evacuees are not allowed to return to post after the 180 days and are placed on involuntary SMA. In the latter case, agency travel regulations governing SMA apply. Shipment of POV is not authorized at USG expense until the employee has a permanent change of station (PSC).
Please see the Global Community Liaison Office’s website for education information for parents of school-age children: In addition, visit the Office of Allowances’ Frequently Asked Questions (Questions # 45-54), which address education and travel allowances during an evacuation.
When the U.S. is the official safe haven, public schools are available to all residents in the U.S. and education allowances are normally not paid. Education allowances will also not be paid if an individual is at an alternate foreign safe haven (other than the designated foreign safe haven).
Away-From-Post and Special Needs Education Allowances
These allowances may continue within specific parameters. Contact GCLOAskEducation@state.gov for further guidance. Education travel eligibility rules continue to be applied except that the official safe haven displaces the post as the travel destination from school. No SEA benefits are payable for children at their school locations when utilizing either the away-from-post education allowance or educational travel.
For more information and resources on returning to the Washington, DC area with children, please visit GCLO’s Education and Youth web pages.
Tandem couples each receive evacuation benefits not to exceed an employee’s eligibility, but without duplication of benefits for eligible family members. Each employee is entitled to all other allowances, including transfer allowances and temporary lodging. If the couple shares lodging only 50% of the allowance is granted for each employee sharing lodging.
Length of the Evacuation
The initial cable ordering the evacuation declares the evacuation for a specified period of time (normally 30 days). At the end of that period, the Department, in conjunction with post, reviews the evacuation status to determine whether it should be continued, whether employees should be reassigned, or whether to terminate the evacuation. If the evacuation is not terminated, the status must continue to be reviewed every 30 days up to 180 days. An evacuation must not last beyond 180 days. NOTE: The evacuation may be lifted at any time. If family members are not allowed to return to post and no reassignment decision has been reached, the post will change status to “unaccompanied.” At such time, eligible family members may apply for Involuntary Separate Maintenance Allowance (ISMA) or Transitional Separate Maintenance (TSMA) depending on their situation. See DSSR 260 for regulations governing all forms of Separate Maintenance Allowance (SMA).
How to Apply for the Subsistence Expense Allowance (SEA)
For Agencies Outside of the Department of State
Employees outside of the Department of State should check their agency’s regulations before applying the DSSR (for foreign affairs agencies, consult the FAM). The Department of State Standardized Regulations (DSSR) applies to all government civilians in foreign areas, but each agency may have further implementing regulations and has its own forms and process.
Department of State SEA Payments
SEA payments will be made when the DS-4095 form is completed and all necessary documents are submitted and processed. The DS-4095 should be submitted only once as the initial application. Subsequently, only lodging receipts need to be submitted.
To expedite processing: Forms may be faxed to 301-985-8589 or emailed to GFSCSeaPackage@state.gov. Contact information, mail and express mail addresses for sending originals are on the form.
- Necessary receipted documents: airline tickets, hotel receipt or signed lease agreement, taxi receipts, receipt for excess baggage fees, a copy of the travel advance, and travel orders.
- Calculation of Meals & Incidental Expenses (M&IE) in Transit to Safe haven: If travel is more than 12 hours, but less than 24 hours on the first day of travel, employees will receive 3/4 of one day’s allowance for the location they are traveling to. For travel exceeding 24 hours, lodging plus M&IE for stopover locations en route to safe haven apply.
- Please Note: SEA is normally paid in 30 day increments. If the employee has been paid the full 30 days and then the evacuation ends abruptly, or is issued PCS/TDY/MED/R&R/Home Leave orders, or lodging changes from commercial to non-commercial, or the employee or EFMs received SEA but were not eligible, the employee is responsible for repaying any or all SEA balance as soon as possible.
- Contact for Department of State Direct Hire Evacuees: Comptroller Global Finance Services (CGFS) at 843-746-0722 or email GFSCSeaPackage@state.gov for clarification, assistance or specific questions related to your SEA application and payments.
Evacuations elicit a variety of different feelings, but the universal response to an evacuation is a sense of not being in control of one’s own life. The individual feels powerless, caught in a situation which affects every aspect of life. Since this feeling is so common, the following tips are suggested as ways to gain a measure of control over the situation.
- Make contingency plans. Decide ahead of time on a safe haven location, organize the documents to take to post, make plans for the children and have powers of attorney in order. Keep and use a copy of GCLO’s You’ve Been Evacuated. Now what?
- Plan for the long term. Evacuations average 3 – 4 months. While the length of any evacuation is difficult to predict, those who plan for a longer rather than a shorter period of time experience fewer frustrations.
- Use resources. While in the Washington, DC area, take some courses at FSI’s Transition Center. Consult with GCLO employment staff about short-term employment. The licensed clinical social workers at the Department of State’s Employee Consultation Service (or their equivalent in other agencies) may be helpful. These last two resources are available to evacuees who are not in Washington through telephone consultation.
- Create a “normal” life. Develop as normal a routine as possible for yourself and your children. If an evacuation lasts more than a month, you may choose to put the children in school. Get them involved in activities, and get involved yourself. Pursue hobbies, do volunteer work, or take a part-time job.
- Keep in touch. Stay in touch with fellow evacuees, with GCLO, or your assigned point of contact (i.e. the Family Liaison Specialist for your agency) throughout the evacuation. You’ll be up-to-date on the latest information from post and enjoy mutual support with others in the same situation. GCLO and your agency’s family liaison representative phone regularly, and share with evacuees the phone numbers and addresses of other evacuees who have given such permission and any other pertinent information.
- Evacuees sometimes do not return to post. They never get to say a proper good-bye. They must live with a sense of “unfinished business” about their post. Many experience an emotional loss. Most people who experience an evacuation are able to put it into perspective and go on; yet Foreign Service life never seems the same again. Experience may make evacuees more wary, and influence them to take contingency planning seriously in the future. Eventually, the memory of an evacuation becomes part of the rich tapestry of experiences, positive and negative, which make up the life of a Foreign Service family.
By law, Subsistence Expense Allowance (SEA), including any extensions or grace period, may never exceed a total of 180 days. When an evacuation is lifted, evacuated employees must return to post in an expeditious manner. Except for those individuals who are converted to PCS orders, there can be a grace period up to three days (beginning the date of the RETURN OF EVACUEES TO POST cable, including Saturday and Sunday) for the continuation of SEA to allow evacuees to make transportation and travel arrangements for return to post.
An additional seven days may be available for justifiable reasons and in certain circumstances (usually related to availability of flights and pack out of UAB). The total grace period cannot extend beyond 10 days from the date of the RETURN OF EVACUEES TO POST cable nor exceed the 180th day of the evacuation. The additional seven days are NOT automatic; they must be justified, and the justification must be submitted with the final travel voucher. Contact CFSC, 843-746-0722 or email GFSCSeaPackage@state.gov if you have questions or need assistance.
- When the status of the post is changed and some or all family members cannot return to post, they are eligible to apply for Involuntary Separate Maintenance Allowance (ISMA).
- Family members who do not wish to return to post immediately may opt for Voluntary Separate Maintenance Allowance (VSMA). This use of SMA does not count as the one-time SMA option per tour.
- Families in commercial lodging who choose to remain behind to finish the final semester of the school year may apply for the Transitional Separate Maintenance Allowance TSMA (see DSSR 264.3).
- Important – Family members who anticipate that they may want or need SMA at the end of the evacuation should apply for it before the evacuation is terminated and SEA payments stop. The Separate Maintenance Allowance is not retroactive. The bureau will hold the SMA applications to be processed when the evacuation is lifted. Contact GCLOAskEvacuations@state.gov for referral to your bureau SMA Coordinator Also, you can read about SMA in DSSR 260.
Employee is Converted to PCS Orders
- PCS orders take precedence over evacuation orders. Once travel on PCS orders begins, SEA will stop and the employee and EFMs will use the PCS orders at that point to determine allowances and benefits provided for in those orders. If the employee and EFMs have not been able to return to post to pack out, the GSO or another designated U.S. direct hire employee will oversee the pack out. Contact the GSO at post to coordinate.