Before you can decide on a plan of action during a natural disaster, you will first need information on the overall affected regions and information on what is and isn’t safe. If you live in an area that is prone to severe weather, you may already have a few alert systems in place. But everyone, no matter where they live, should have some way of finding out whether or not they are potentially in danger. Part of your emergency preparedness plan should include setting up a number of alert systems so that you can be informed in the event of an emergency situation.
AM/FM Radio – Your regular radio is one of the best ways to find out information during any emergency. You may have already experienced this if you have ever heard an Amber Alert on your radio. If a local or national emergency occurs, the EAS (Emergency Alert System) is a federal service that requires all broadcasters to inform the public.
It is important to note that an AM/FM radio is much more helpful than an satellite radio in these types of situations. An AM/FM radio will pick up localized signals, giving you information specific for where you live. Because a satellite radio is not dependent on your location, they will likely give general information and you may miss something important.
If you do have an AM/FM radio as part of your emergency supplies, make sure to pack extra batteries. Solar powered and/or crank powered emergency radios are also a great solution for your bug-out-bag. Food Insurance® provides a radio in our Premium Bug-Out-Bag, or they can be purchased individually here.
Weather radios/ All-hazard alert receivers – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has its own specific weather broadcast system that operates 24/7. However, the frequency is one that cannot be found on most AM/FM radios. Radios specially-made to pick up NOAA’s signal are the most reliable way to receive information on natural disasters for a number of reasons. First, it has the ability for you to program your specific location, meaning that you will not get unnecessary information from other areas. Secondly, the radio can stay dormant until a “watch” or “warning” is issued for your territory – then it will sound an alarm. Again, make sure you have plenty of batteries for this radio.
The biggest disadvantage to NOAA specific radios is that they tend to be more expensive than AM/FM radios, and are not of much use outside of an emergency situation.
TV – When an EAS is activated, your TV will also broadcast the alert. Again, make sure you have access to local news stations as well as more generalized ones. Although your television will be great at keeping you up-to-date in real time, you are also dependent on your electricity. It is great to have a backup system like an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) or a generator, but this is not feasible for everyone.
Internet – Like TV, internet service is generally dependent on electricity. With the uptake in smart phones over the past few years, it is possible that you will still have internet service even if the power is out. Be aware that web-browsing generally drains phone batteries quickly, so make important calls or send texts before searching the web.
If you are going to use the internet, make sure you know where to go ahead of time. A search engine will likely lead you to broad answers or possibly unreliable sources. You can go to http://www.weather.gov/ for weather alerts. Google also has a relatively new service called Google Public Alerts http://google.org/publicalerts that can give you information on nationwide natural disasters. Google receives this information from NOAA, which is part of the federal government and releases it’s own alerts here: http://www.noaa.gov/. Many of these services, including FEMA, have their own Twitter accounts. By following them, you can receive immediate information on every area.
Cell phones – As mentioned in the previous section, cell phones/smart phones can be very useful in an emergency situation. Even if your internet signal is down, there is still a chance that you will have phone service. During an emergency, phone signal tends to diminish because of the number of people who are trying to make calls. Many times, it is much easier to get a text message through than it is to make a call. Additionally, non-local calls are easier to make during or after an emergency situation. Many people like to select a friend or family member who lives out-of-state to use as an emergency contact, and source of information. You may not be able to reach your spouse or children, but if you can both check-in with someone out-of-state, you can coordinate accordingly.
If you have a smart phone, there are plenty of applications, including one by NOAA, that can send alerts straight to your phone the minute they are issued. Of course this is all dependent on signal being available, and on you having a charged battery.
As with anything, a little bit of advanced preparation now will put you and your family in a much better situation in the event of any emergency.
Have questions about what type of disasters your region of the country is prone to? You can view Food Insurance®’s Disaster Preparedness Map here.