There are two major aspects of communication
First is remaining informed. What is the current situation, what alternatives are available and how can you get this information? The second is keeping in touch with family members to implement your personal emergency plan, and contacting emergency service personnel, should you require immediate attention.
The biggest problem with keeping informed will come if electricity is out. This means no television or radio and no internet. Your computer can run on batteries for a while, but without internet you will not be up to date. What do you do?
A battery operated radio, tuned into an AM channel (AM radio waves are omni-directional) will provide some news and weather updates. A hand cranked radio will not require a stock of batteries. Emergency alert radios broadcast weather forecasts and warnings provided by the Emergency Broadcast System. These radios have an alarm system that comes on automatically to give warnings if an alert has been issued in your area.
Citizen Band radio (CB) popular a few years back, can provide useful information about road conditions, but don’t have a long range.
Local emergency scanners will let you listen in to local communications between fire, police, local safety personnel as well as government transmissions. These are more expensive and most useful if you are involved professionally.
Ham radios, also known as amateur radios, are reliable and involve thousands of operators throughout the world. In addition to equipment, and a tower, an FCC license is required. [http://www.aarl.org]
Emergency communications when separated
If an emergency occurs when your family is separated, your stress level as to their location and condition will raise. Your first thought will be to grab your telephone. Is it working? If it needs electricity and the power is out, it is useless. An old, landline phone will.
Hopefully, you have kept your cell phone batteries charged. As long as the towers are functioning, it will work. In a local disaster, the circuits may be jammed with users doing exactly what you are. Shift modes to text messaging. These take less band width and will go through easier.
Also consider that a long distance telephone call may be easier to make than a local one. When you make your Family Emergency Plan, include an out-of-town contact as your family’s contact person. Everyone in your family should have a copy of this contact information and be instructed to phone that number to check in. Take the time to make hard copies of this just in case high-tech equipment doesn’t work.
Another option is to have a set of “walkie-talkie” radios. Formally referred to as a hand held transceiver, these are useful for communicating with others while hiking, biking, and working; keeping track of family members in a crowded public event; checking with travel companions between cars; or talking with neighbors and arranging meeting places. The Cobra Microtalk set we have also has a NOAA all hazards radio channel.