Editor’s note: Read our previous story on this subject here.
Sending your teenager a text to find out if they are almost home, or calling your spouse’s cell phone to tell him you are heading to a specific location will not be possible if the power grid goes down.
We have all become accustomed to the convenience and immediate nature of communicating with our loved ones. While it is handy, we surely should not count on being able to reach those we care about via conventional means during a disaster scenario.
During 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, separated family members were unable to reach those in the disaster zone for days, and weeks in some cases. Folks were reduced to posting photographs at Red Cross and FEMA stations and sit anxiously while awaiting word of their loved one’s fate. It would be wonderful if we were all safely huddled inside our homes with our family when disaster strikes, but such a scenario is not very realistic.
Preparedness planning and practicing exit routes and having maps handy are just a few of the keys to successful survival relocation during a crisis. Leaving unconventional notes or wordless messages to loved ones to make them aware of your whereabouts should become an integral part of your preparedness plan.
If you had to suddenly flee your home with a few of your children and without your spouse, do you really want to rely on a sticky noted placed on the fridge?
Here are a few ideas on how to communicate in such a situation.
Here’s Your Sign
Cotton bandanas are cheap and make excellent non-verbal, non-written communication tools during a time of crisis. Also, cut-off portions of cheap tablecloths or sheets found at yard sales can be used for message threads.
Make a color-coded key which corresponds to what each piece of cloth kept in the bug-out or get-me-home bag means. All the family members should become familiar with the spots around the home where the message threads would be tied. You should choose more than one in case the evacuation of the property was prompted by fire, flooding or other danger which could constrict movement of those who come home after you have left.
A specific color or patterned cloth could also be assigned to each family member to tie in a specific spot to alert others that they safely evacuated the area. A parent will not want to flee if a child that was playing outside cannot be located. That would endanger themselves and other children during a frantic search for the missing loved one.
A blue message thread could correspond with a specific exit route, meeting location, etc. Devise a message thread plan which is basic, easy to remember, and fits your specific needs. The cloth ties could also be used along the escape route, especially if it had to be altered, so those left behind can rejoin the group. Walking the alternate escape routes and selecting message poles and trees with the entire family in advance will help folks find them when rushing away from danger in a frightened state.
A can of spray paint could also easily and safely relay a message. Once again, devise a key with symbols that only makes sense to the family and make a friendly competition type game out of your practice remembrance sessions. Words can be used as well, but “Mom I ran this way,” could likely alert unwelcome guests along your escape route. Spray the symbols or phrases which make sense only to the family on either designated spots or easy-to-see locations. A husband likely knows his wife’s route home from work, and her alternate route, but she might have to kick off her hills and hike home through a wooded area to avert danger or the elements. Spraying a symbol or private directional message onto the roadway or vehicle will help the couple unite and not waste time or face additional harm during a senseless search.
Burying emergency caches near the home and on all the routes to and from school and work also can provide a message exchange opportunity and meeting point. Even if the school or place of business is within a five- or 10-mile radius, maneuvering such a distance will take quite a while on foot and during a disaster scenario. Placing pen and paper and additional message threads and cans of spray paint inside the caches will alert family members following your trail to any change in plan. A short personal note can make a big difference to the mental and emotional state of the loved one who has been separated, afraid, tired, hungry and thirsty. A map of the caches should be placed in all of the bug-out bags, get-me-home bags, and especially in the children’s backpacks. If an evildoer removes the message threads or covers up the spray paint messages, the emergency caches would serve as the final avenue of regaining communications and reuniting with loved ones.