Alternate Communication

Communication during and after a disaster is an important part of response and recovery. It connects family members, communities and first-responders with support structures. Reliable communication systems are critical for a community’s rescue and recovery.

During a disaster, for most people being out of touch with family is terrifying. We have become so accustomed to being in contact, often with the push of just a few buttons on our cell phones. It doesn’t take much of an emergency to disrupt cell phones. If family members are separated by some distance, in-person communication might not be feasible. How else can you keep in touch?
•  Text messaging operates on a parallel network to cell phones and uses less bandwidth. Texts will go through when telephone call may not.
•  Emailing is another alternative. Email servers are located globally, so it is unlikely that they will go dead all at the same time. The cables used for hard wired internet work on different networks than cell phones, so WI-Fi service may still be up and running. An uninterruptible power source (UPS battery) may extend your communication time as well.
•  Social Media is similar to email in that it is hosted on a network of global servers, providing redundancy. It is easy to post Facebook or Twitter messages to family and friends as a back up in case of an emergency.
•  Phone Booths are on land lines and are quite reliable. Do you remember where there might be a phone booth near you? Something to make note of next time you’re out. If you need to use one, don’t forget to take some change.
•  Walkie-Talkie radios can have a range of up to 10 miles. Keep a set with batteries stored separately to use in your community.
•  Should the situation get really bad, you may need to resort to HAM radio. HAM Radios can reach halfway across the country. These do require an FCC license.
•  CB Radio reports from truckers may be the best news in a nation-wide situation. They will be burning up the airways with information on fires, road blockages, cities to avoid. etc.[1]

The Federal Communications Commission licenses Ham or Amateur radios  enthusiasts to communicate on a number of bands in the radio frequency spectrum non-commercially and for their own enjoyment. They may also provide emergency and public service assistance during emergencies. It is well known as a back up for our federal government. A series of exams are required to advance in the ham radio system, but you no longer need to pass a Morse code proficiency test.

Do you know Morse Code?

An electrical telegraph was independently developed and patented in the United States in 1837 by Samuel F. B. Morse. Together with his assistant Alfred Vail, they developed a signaling alphabet using short pulses referred to as dots and dashes.[2] This system of communications was widely used until the development of the telephone. It is still used today in some fields. It became very useful in maritime and aviation and pilots were required to know it up until the 1990’s. Today Morse Code is kept alive by amateur radio operators and Civil War re-enacters.[3]




Billie Nicholson, editor
September 2015,
updated April 2017

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