After an emergency or catastrophic disaster you will want to reconnect and stay in touch with family and friends and you will want current information about what is happening in the disaster zone that affects you and your neighbours.
Instinctively, you will reach for your telephone, cellular or landline, which may or may not be working.
How you will communicate will require advance planning.
Here are something things to remember:
1. There is a good chance that telephone lines and networks will be disrupted, congested or overloaded after a large-scale disaster or emergency and you will need alternative plans to stay in touch and access important information.
2. ONLY CALL 911 IF A LIFE IS AT RISK.
3. For all other calls, think before you call. Limit the number of calls to those that must be made to reconnect to loved ones, report dangerous situations like downed power lines or ruptured gas lines or will assist you and your family to be safe. Keep them short. Remember everyone will have the same needs and congested phone lines mean longer and additional outages, may prevent first responders like fire, police and health care workers from doing their jobs.
4. Establish a personal Call Centre. Choose a person who is willing to act as your personal call centre during an emergency. They will take calls from you and from those in your family and social network who will be concerned about your whereabouts and wellbeing. You call them to provide regular updates on yourself and family members who are with you. They will then relay that information to others calling in or those you have asked to be notified. It is also a very effective way to reconnect with those from who you have become separated.
This person should be someone living outside the immediate emergency/disaster zone. Make sure everyone who needs to know, knows how the system works and which numbers to call. Make sure you have a hard copy of those numbers with you at all times and there are copies in all your emergency kits. This is an important part of your emergency plan.
5. Always have battery-operated or hand-crank radios available to get current situational information and any instructions from authorities important to your continued safety. Pre-tune them to a trusted local radio station. Arrangements have been made with local stations for them to broadcast this information as it becomes available from authorities. If you require batteries, always have an extra supply of fresh batteries on hand. As an alternative you can use your car radio. Remember not to drain your car battery.
Cordless and Analog Phones: If you have a landline, make sure you have at least one analog phone available for use during an emergency or disaster. Cordless phones do not work if the power is down.
Text: Texting takes less network capacity and as a result is more likely to get through even when lines and networks are congested. Learn how to text today.
Social Media: Social media can be used to reconnect to loved ones from whom you have been separated or might be missing. Social media is also an important and valuable link to information that will aid in your response and recovery. The Web, Internet, Facebook and Twitter are important social media links. The most important thing to remember is to be selective. Find those sources and sites that you can trust for accurate information and which are safe to use. Establish accounts and learn how to use them safely and effectively now, before you need them.
Pay Phones: Pay phones are becoming less of an option than they were in the past; however, those that exist are still more likely to be up and running before other lines or networks. You can make 911 calls for free. Otherwise, you will need correct change or a prepaid phone card to use them. If you do find one that is working, remember all those people in the line behind you. Limit the number of calls you make and keep them short. Remember only call 911 if it is a life-threatening situation.