Emergency Communication: Are You Prepared to Make Contact During a Disaster?
Emergency Communication is probably one of the least talked about aspects of preparedness, but in my opinion, it plays a vital role in insuring your survival during any type of disaster, and is something that you can’t afford to overlook.
Disaster after disaster has shown us how crucial communication can be during a time of crisis. From dispatching first responders into affected areas, to coordinating with loved ones during times of crisis, our communications infrastructure is vitally important to our safety.
Unfortunately, while we have made great strides in communication technology, our infrastructure is incredibly vulnerable to even small-scale disasters and storms. Time after time we’ve seen our cell networks fail, our modern devices stop working, and even our 911 systems overloaded during times of crisis.
Are You Prepared to Make Contact During a Disaster?
Just like all areas of survival, the first step in emergency communication is preparedness. That means developing an Emergency Communications Plan, and then making sure everyone in your family knows what it is, and how to put it in place during a disaster.
- Make a list of who you will contact during a disaster. Everyone in your family, or your group, should have that same list.
- Your Emergency list should contain phone numbers, email addresses, and even social media networks.
- If possible, you should have a local contact and 1 – 2 contacts that are out-of-state. These people should be agreed upon before a disaster, so your family can use them as the point of contact during a time of crisis.
- Your Main Point of Contact can then coordinate either evacuation efforts, or efforts to reunite members of your family or group.
- Once disaster hits, and you have removed yourself from harm’s way, one of your first priorities should be making contact with your emergency contact list. All plans, follow-up contacts, schedules and status updates should then be relayed to your entire emergency contact list. This means contacting your point of contact first, and if possible shooting out a mass email & text message to your list and updating your social network status.
Emergency Communication Gear
During a disaster, it’s very likely that most communication channels will go down. Hopefully this will only be temporary, but either way you need to plan for the worst case scenario and have multiple options available.
We will start with cellphones, because almost everyone has one. While cell networks are often overwhelmed during a disaster, they still might help you make contact.
If your initial attempts to make a call fail, try texting or using your phones data plan to make contact.
As we’ve seen in past disasters, texting and even social media apps can sometimes work, even when voice doesn’t. A text message takes a lot less bandwidth than a phone call, so during a disaster this might be your best bet for making contact.
While you’ll still need some way to access them, social networks can be a great way to communicate during a disaster. If you can make your way to an emergency crisis center, or access them on your cellphone, you may be able to post a status update to your social networks.
While I wouldn’t rely on this as my primary means of communication, it can be a great way to let friends and family know you’re ok, or let them know what you’re planning to do next.
While on the expensive side, during a natural disaster or crisis, having a satellite phone just might save your life.
Satellite phones offer a couple of advantages during a disaster. First, they don’t rely on local cell networks, so they’re less likely to be affected by an increase in call volume. Second, even if the entire local cell network goes down, your satellite phone is still going to be operational.
Recently I’ve been testing the SPOT Global Sat Phone , and I’ve been really impressed with its ability to call from even the remotest areas of the backcountry. In areas where my cell phone has zero reception, my SPOT phone is able to call out to anywhere in the world.
I know, you’re probably picturing big rig trucks or bad movies from the 1980’s; but the fact is, the C.B. Radio can be an important part of your emergency communications arsenal. I recommend having one in your vehicle, having a handheld one in your bugout bag, and having a base station at home.
During a localized disaster, you should be able to make contact within a 20 – 30 mile radius. This makes the CB Radio a great way to coordinate with friends and family during localized disasters.
FRS/GMRS Two Way Radios
The Family Radio Service (FRS) and The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) are both designed for short-distance two-way communication. They’re generally used with small walkie-talkie devices and have a range of somewhere between 5 to 35 miles (line of sight) and about 1 mile in an urban setting.
I personally use the Motorola MS350R Talkabout and recommend them for caravanning or when hiking in groups.
Having and knowing how to use a Ham Radio is probably one of the most important things you can do to ensure your ability to communicate during a disaster. For over a hundred years, the Ham Radio has played a vital role in almost every major disaster this country has faced.
When the grid goes down, the cell networks stop working, and every other line of communication fails, there’s a pretty good chance the Ham Bands will be alive and operating. Just remember to have a set list of frequencies where you and your group will try to make contact.