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4 Ways To Communicate During A Disaster

FloodThe power has gone out. A state of emergency has been declared. Phone lines are down. Your teenage daughter is halfway across the city watching a movie with her friend. As you frantically dial her cell phone number, you start to panic as you hear a busy signal – a sound you haven’t heard since the late 1980s. What do you do?

For most people, being out of touch with their spouse or loved ones is a terrifying prospect. In some respects, our terror is rooted in the fact that communications technology has grown to the point where we can instantly and painlessly communicate with people all over the globe. Most of us have multiple ways of reaching our loved ones – all contained within a cell phone, which is now much more than just a simple telephone. Still, even the most routine “emergency” can erase all the technological leaps we’ve made. It doesn’t take much to down cell phone lines – certainly nothing as dramatic as an EMP, nuclear strike, or terrorist event. Phone lines can be downed by mundane and non-newsworthy events like heavy snowfall, torrential rains or even plain old equipment failures. What this means is that you have to maintain a method of emergency communications with family members and loved ones, a foolproof method of communication that works even when conventional routes don’t. Here’s what to do:

1. Make a plan. First of all, you need to lay out a plan for your family members, just in case. Your plan needs to spell out exactly what will happen during an emergency, to include the following:

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The idea behind the plan is that in the event of an emergency, the family goes into a pre-programmed mode, their training takes over, and they execute the last instructions they were given. This may sound like a revolutionary idea, but it’s the way armies have been operating for centuries in the absence of instant communication.

2. Think of alternate communication. Make sure your family knows which method of communication will be used, and in what order. For example, the first line of communication is cell phone, followed by text, followed by….you get the point. This will ensure family members know how – and more importantly where – to look for emergency messages from loved ones. Also, think of alternate communications, unconventional methods of communicating with loved ones, such as:

Okay, so none of these methods work, and your cell phone is dead as a doornail — no texts, no email, no social media. What now? Here are a couple alternate methods to try:

3. Phone Booths: Yes, they still exist, and most of them are on landlines, which are inherently reliable; most landlines have been operational for nigh on 80 years. There are even apps online that tell you where phone booths are located. Make sure you carry change for that purpose.

4. HAM Radio: If the situation has gotten really nasty, ham radio is a great solution. Not only can your average five watt handset achieve 10+ miles of range on flat ground, using a repeater, a ham radio can reach halfway across the country. Tell your family in advance what frequencies you can be reached on, and what times you will be listening (eg. every hour on the hour, every quarter hour, etc.). Also, make sure and carry a repeater guide for your area with you rather than relying on the programming in the radio or even data stored on your cell phone.

Communicating with your loved ones during an emergency doesn’t need to be difficult or scary. With a little pre-planning, you can feel safe and secure even when others are panicking.