How to connect with family after a disaster

How to connect with family after a disaster

By Chris Dougherty
Certified RV technician

This is part 1 on a series of Disaster Preparedness for RVers.

Communications for RVers is easier now than it has ever been. Thirty years ago if you were in a disaster zone you could be cut off for weeks. Today, while there is still the possibility of being unable to communicate as we would “normally” for a brief time, we can usually get messages out pretty quickly after a disaster or emergency.

Keeping in touch with family and friends is essential, and never more so than after a disaster or emergency. Our loved ones worry about us as much as we worry about them, and if they know we’re involved in a disaster, they’ll fret until they hear that we’re OK or need help.

The best way to keep in touch is to have a family communication plan in case disaster strikes, says the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “Think about how you will communicate in different situations. Complete a contact card for each adult family member. Have them keep these cards handy in a wallet, purse or briefcase, etc. Additionally, complete contact cards for each child in your family. Put the cards in their backpacks or book bags,” the Agency says.

FEMA also offers other recommendations to get the word out from a disaster situation:

• Identify an out-of-state friend or relative as a common contact who everyone will communicate through in the event of a disaster. It may be easier to call long distance than across a town where lines of communication have been damaged or are overloaded.

• Make certain every member of the family has a cellphone, calling card, or coins to use a pay phone to communicate, and that they have the contact phone number everyone has agreed upon.

• If you have a cellphone, program contact entries to be used in the event of an emergency as ICE (In Case of Emergency.) If you have more than one, categorize them by level of importance (ICE-1, ICE-2, etc.) This way even if you are unable to use the phone, emergency responders will know who to contact. Make sure the contacts know they’re your emergency contacts.

• Text messaging or SMS (Short Message Service) often works when voice communication through the cellular network won’t. All cellphones have this capability. Make sure your family members know how to use it, and if you’re not sure, seek help from your cellular carrier.

• Make sure that wherever you travel you can receive public safety and weather alerts. Many communities and cellular services automatically notify cellular customers in the event of a local emergency around where the phone is located, but some older phones can’t receive this information. You can subscribe to local alerts through a number of online sources, including the local emergency management office website, local media, and services like Intellicast and the Weather Channel. (There will be more on staying informed in Week 3.)

Of course, there are other forms of communication, including satellite phones, Internet, HAM radio and so on, so if you have access to these, then use them as needed.

For more information, visit the National Preparedness Month website.

Read Part Two of this Series

 

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