Sunday, November 24, 2013

Emergency Communications: 10 Types

Everyone should have an emergency communications plan.  When disaster strikes, one of the first things people want to do if you are in the disaster area is let loved ones know you are all right or, if you aren't in the disaster, ensure that loved ones who are in the disaster area are all right.  Here are ten ways to stay connected during a disaster:

  1. Leave your itinerary with a responsible person and check in regularly.  If you will be on a remote trail or in a foreign country, leave a fairly detailed itinerary with a responsible person who will know if and when to send for help on your behalf (ie: if you don't check in within a reasonable amount of time, the friend or relative can call the consulate, call the ranger station, etc and get a search started for you).
  2. Assign one responsible friend or relative to be your "emergency communication hub person."  During a disaster you may not be able to check on friends or relatives in your immediate area (cell towers are overloaded, phone lines are down) but you can often call long distances without a problem.  Give this person's contact information to all family members and in the event of a disaster everyone can check in with the designated emergency contact person.
  3. Consider a GPS locator such as a SPOT 3.  These devices allow you to bounce messages off a satellite to let people know you are fine or to call for help.  Although not common or practical for daily use at home, these are often used when people are way off the beaten track.
  4. Get a HAM radio and the training to use it.  Almost exclusively during major disasters, HAM radios work when all other forms of communication don't.  Start here.
  5. Always keep your cell phone charged.  Everyone uses cell phones these days and often, even if cell towers are overloaded with calls, you can still send text messages during a disaster.
  6. Consider a land line.  I haven't had a land line in ages but these can be very useful during a disaster, especially if they are buried lines.  A land line (with a hard wired phone, not a cordless phone) does not require electricity to use and be used to make calls during a disaster.
  7. Use your internet.  Again, depending on the type of disaster, if you still have internet access, you can connect with people (either via Twitter, Facebook, email, computer-to-text, Skype, etc) through your computer or tablet.
  8. A satellite phone can be helpful during a disaster.  I say they can be helpful because there is good reason to use these phones (calls are bounced off a satellite so you don't need to rely on cell towers or phone lines) but there are a host of drawbacks as well (they are expensive to keep, use, and maintain; you need a way to keep them charged, you need direct access to the satellite which means you need either a fixed antenna that is still standing or need to go outside to use them, and the satellite needs to be working and in position to use).
  9. Use a people finder.  After a major disaster there are a couple of reliable services that are used to connect displaced people with loved ones who are searching for them and vice versa.  Check out Google Person Finder and the Red Cross Safe and Well websites.
  10. Use a runner or be a runner.  When all else fails, the only way to get your message out may be via your own two feet (or the feet of another).  In this case, you want to be in good enough physical shape to be able to travel a distance--via foot, bicycle, etc--in order to seek help or communicate with others.

1 comment:

  1. Just one thought - I've lived in the country before and the landline would lose power after 24 hours because they are serviced from a panel at a local location. - that's the battery that needs a generator to keep the phone going.