Thursday, March 5, 2015

March Challenge #5 Your Communication Plan

In the event of a disaster, the first thing most people want to do is communicate with others.  Whether they are trying to call 911 or need to contact loved ones to let them know they are OK, being able to communicate right after a disaster can often be a challenge.  Here's some things to consider:

  • Land lines will often work after a disaster when cell towers are overloaded.
  • Texting often works even when cell towers are being overloaded with phone calls.
  • Communicating can be done via: phone calls, texting, email, an IM program, Facebook/Twitter/Instagram and other social media platforms, and video game consoles.
  • Prearranging a meet up spot in your neighborhood and at another location (should your neighborhood be inaccessible) in your town is a good way to gather the family after a disaster when all communications are down.
  • Even when local phone systems are down you can often call to other states without a problem.
  • Use a friend or relative in another state to be the emergency communication hub should there be a disaster in your area (be sure all family members have this person's address, email, and phone number for this purpose).
  • Have a way to charge your cell phone and laptop in your car should all electricity be down in your area (like an AC/DC converter that plugs into the lighter).
  • Don't forget the oldest ways of communication: leaving a written note on your door (with your evacuation details or messages for others) as well as sending a runner if needed (ie: if communication systems are down and you need 911 help, run--or bike or drive--to the nearest fire department).
  • HAM radio is one of the best ways to communicate when all other systems are down.  Consider getting licensed as a HAM operator and joining your local HAM NET to practice your skills.  For even better practice, volunteer with ARES/RACES to help during a disaster.
  • Two way radios usually only have a couple mile range but you never know who might pick up your call so consider keeping these radios (and extra batteries) on hand.
  • Satellite phones are an option however they have plenty of drawbacks (the phones are expensive, monthly service is expensive, you need to be in direct line of the satellite, and, at different times during the day your location may be out of satellite range).
  • If you are in a disaster area (or are looking for someone in a disaster area) consider posting on the Google Person Finder or Red Cross Safe and Well sites.  The reddit site for the closest city is also an option.
  • Personal Locator Beacons are another option to call for help.
  • Keep a wind-up/battery-powered radio on hand.  While you can't call out on this type of radio, you can receive news and information from the outside world with it.

Here are some more communication resource information: here, here, and here.

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