Communicating During an Emergency

An important part of all emergency preparedness is communication. When a natural disaster strikes, your first instinct will be to call family and friends to check on their whereabouts and condition. If the calamity occurs while you are at work, it may even be necessary to contact your children at school or spouse where he or she is. If someone is injured, you will need a way to contact emergency personnel. You will also want someway of finding out updates – if your power is out, you’ll need to figure out what caused it and for how long. It is absolutely necessary to think about all types of emergencies and how you will communicate with others, and to especially plan for what you will do if you can’t use your normal forms of communication.

Cell Phones – When a disaster occurs, networks frequently shut down the ability to call others. This is because the system gets flooded with way too many people trying to call each other. However, your ability to text, connect to wifi, and call 9-1-1 should still be functioning.

The danger of relying on your everyday cell phone is the tendency for the battery to run out really quickly. Buy a solar-powered charger, or a windup charger, to recharge your phone’s battery. Keep extra chargers with you when you travel and in your evacuation kit.

Download apps onto your phone that will help you in an emergency. The Red Cross app will teach you how to respond to lots of different emergencies. Other apps will keep you updated on the weather, help you to find evacuation shelters, and other crucial information. Many of these will not need a network or internet connection in order to work. For that reason, it is a good idea to keep old smart phones you may happen to have in 72-hour kits. Programming emergency numbers into the contact information on old smart phones can be a helpful as well.

Pay-as-you-go Phones – These phones are best to keep in cars or emergency kits for when your regular cell phone runs out of batteries. It might also be smart to keep one in a child’s 72-hour or evacuation kit in case you get separated from them. Make sure this phone is fully charged and turned off before you pack it, and include the charger in the pack.

Cell Phones for Kids – There exists cell phones made specifically for young children. These phones look like plastic toy phones. They are made with only five buttons that are programmed with emergency numbers, such as mom, dad, grandparents, etc. Incoming calls and texts can also be restricted by parents. Minutes and texts are prepaid. Many parents dislike the idea of giving their young child their own cell phone, but families in certain situations may need them. If you are worried about an emergency occurring while your child is in school and you are at work, this may be the best option.

Home Phones – Landlines may work when cellphones don’t, and vice versa. The problem is that many home phones depend on electricity to power them, so they will not work during a power outage. You can buy a an inexpensive landline phone that will not rely on external power sources, but will plug into the phone jack. Cordless phones will not work, because they do need to charge their batteries on a charging station that requires electricity.

Radios – Have a radio that is powered by batteries, solar-power, or winding it up. For times when the power goes out, this will be the best way to receive news of what is going on. Battery-powered radios are the most common, but are not recommended for emergencies where the power may be out for weeks at a time. Even if you have extra batteries – which you absolutely should – these can run out quickly in an extended emergency.

Ham Radios – Ham radios are two-way radios, so they allow you to send messages out while receiving information being broadcast. Emergency preparedness experts always recommend having a ham radio as well as other forms of communication, because they work using radio waves and do not rely on companies that could get overwhelmed or shut down. They can also be powered with batteries, solar-power, and windup methods. However, ham radios are somewhat expensive, and require you to obtain and operator’s license.

Because many forms of emergency communication are quite costly, most people chose not to try to communicate during a power outage or similarly minor emergency. While this is a good idea for anyone stranded at home during a similar instance, you should not rely solely on just not communicating. Prepare now to have some form of emergency communication in case you, a family member, or a neighbor needs medical attention.

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