Communications are often one of the first things to fail after natural disasters. Think of the anguish and despair that increases after a hurricane, earthquake, tsunami and other large-scale disasters when people don’t know the status of other members in their family. I like the way that current FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate says he likes to plan for a catastrophe and then scale back as appropriate. With that philosophy in mind, here are a few things to consider that are mentioned in our Local 10 Hurricane Survival Guide.
First, make sure every family member knows how to communicate with one another if normal means of communication are knocked out. In my case, my wife and I live in Miami and our three children live elsewhere outside of South Florida. I have made sure that each family member has a list with our out of town emergency contact information on it. Our emergency contact information includes an out of town relative’s name along with his home and cell phone numbers, email address and home address. If my family member can’t contact each other directly through normal means for whatever reason, we will do everything we can to get word of our status to our emergency contact.
The second thing you want to make sure you can do is to continue to receive the emergency messages from local officials if the power goes out. Sometimes, radio is the only thing left working. As suggested in our Hurricane Survival Guide, I have a battery powered NOAA Weather Radio(with plenty of extra batteries) and a hand-crank NOAA Weather Radio (just in case the power is out for an extended period and I run out of batteries). These radios also receive normal AM and FM stations. Local 10 has a backup generator that we test every week, so hopefully we will still be broadcasting even if there are widespread power outages. If your power is out, you can still hear our live broadcasts on Classical South Florida 89.7 FM.
A third thing (also listed in our Hurricane Survival Guide) that I have done is to make sure my wife can communicate with some key people in our neighborhood during an emergency, given that I’m most likely going to be at Local 10 before, during and immediately after a hurricane. If the power is out, landline phone service is out and even if cell towers are down, some HAM radio friends made sure that we have two-way radios that can be used to communicate short distances. These two-way radios can be used when camping, spending the day at the beach, and in many other situations. There are at least three other families within a block of our home that have similar radios with whom my wife can communicate. I recommend Dual Service Radios that use Family Radio Service (FRS) and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) frequencies that are available from many manufacturers and can be purchased at numerous places including sporting goods stores. Mine work with alkaline or rechargeable batteries and also came with a car charger. Our community essentially has a fallback communications network if all normal communications lines are out. I recommend occasional tests of these radios with friends in your neighborhood.