The thing about emergencies is that they never happen at a convenient time. There is a good chance that the emergency could hit during the day, when your kids are at school and you and your spouse are at work or home. If you live in an area like Portland, OR, where I’m from, it’s entirely possible you’re your family could be going about their daily activities on both sides of the river that splits the city. When a big emergency happens and the bridges go down, how will you check in with your family to make sure they are safe?
A family communications plan addresses this very issue. Sit down with your family tonight and identify:
- Your out-of-town contact. This is the person who lives out of your area and perhaps out of the state that your entire family should call to check in with post-emergency. It’s necessary to pick an out-of-town contact because in some emergencies it’s easier to get through to an out of the area phone number than a local landline or cell phone.
- Write down your out-of-town contact’s name, phone number and email and make sure every family member memorizes the number or puts a copy in their wallet/purse/backpack/briefcase/car.
- Investigate your cell phones: are they 3G-enabled? If so, they might work better in a disaster than traditional cell phones or landlines that could be jammed.
- Enable social media tools such as Twitter, Instant Messager and/or Facebook on your 3G or other mobile phone. Increasingly, local emergencies in the U.S. have shown that Twitter is becoming a go-to location for up-to-the-minute news and updates of emergency situations. By pre-installing applications like these on your phone, you will have more options for checking in on loved ones if traditional methods are not working and more options for receiving news.
- Get a hand-crank or solar powered radio that also charges your phones. You can listen to news and charge your phone and never worry about batteries. Make sure you get the kind that receives NOAA weather stations: those stations enable you to receive weather alerts, evacuation notices and emergency information.
- Subscribe to email alerts through FEMA’s website. You can pick the topic you’d like to be notified on, as well as the frequency.
What strategies have you identified to keep in touch with your family during an emergency?