As the result of a natural disaster or emergency situation, normal communications will be disrupted and calling for immediate help will be hard to do. What will be your best way to contact emergency services or check on your loved ones?
Most everyone has a cell phone, but using them will be difficult immediately after a disastrous event. Past experiences during previous emergency situations have shown that everyone tries to either call for help or to check on loved ones at the same time with their cell phone. Cellular systems are not designed to handle that high volume of calls and will quickly overload, getting through to anyone is nearly impossible. Also, if there happens to be issues with the cell phone network as the result of damaged Tower Antennas or Base
Stations, your cell phones could be inoperable for days or even weeks. However, if the cell phone network does stay intact and the volume of calls has diminished, your cell phone could be a valuable tool to keep in touch with family and friends as long as the battery doesn’t go dead.
Using your Home phone, also known as a land-line, is a better way to immediately call during or after a disaster. Even if the lights go out, plugged in Home phones will work because they get their power to operate from the phone line itself and don’t need the AC power from your house. Also, phone lines are hard wires usually buried deep and protected to withstand most weather and events, it’s not common that they will be affected. Your Home phone will need to have a corded handset, in other words, the wire from your handset needs to plug directly into the phone base. Home phones with wireless handsets need AC power for the base to send the signal to the handset, so they will not work when the power is out. Additionally, phone systems bundled with your cable system will also not work, because if the power is out, your cable will also not be working. Be prepared, tuck away a corded Home phone with your emergency supplies.
The most reliable way to communicate or call for help during or after a disaster is to use a 2-meter Amateur Band Ham Radio. Anyone can use them, they can be inexpensive, and can be the size of a standard walkie-talkie to easily pack away for use in emergencies. Emergency Responders use the 2-meter Amateur Radio Band and are often aware of situations even before local Police and Medical Services. The 2-meter Amateur Band frequencies are not locally limited or affected in times of emergencies, Ham radio operators are often the first contacted to assist in major disasters with communications between the public and emergency services such as law enforcement, fire response, and emergency medical services. The American Red Cross has recognized that the 2-meter Amateur Band is the most effective way to provide communication and Ham Radio operators provide 90% of the coordination efforts during a major emergency. If a major disaster occurs, having these radios could save your life or the lives of your loved ones.
However, please note that the FCC wants you licensed to broadcast on your radio, but for the Amateur 2-meter band, it’s as easy as taking a simple test of 35 questions covering operating procedures, rules and regulations, and minor electronics with no Morse Code memorization necessary. If needed, classes are available everywhere, inexpensive, and don’t take too much time. Also, remember to have back-up batteries or a recharging system for your hand-held radios, they might be the best way to communicate and stay informed during an emergency situation, but a dead battery means you’re on your own.
Reliable communications are necessary during any extended Emergency situation or Natural disaster such as flood, fire, earthquake, hurricane, or even the unthinkable act of terrorism. Having the ability to easily contact Emergency or Medical personnel if needed could be critical to you and your family’s survival.
This article is one of a series of articles discussing areas most commonly not remembered or misunderstood in preparing for a disaster or emergency situation.