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Friday, June 4, 2010

Preps: No Communications Services, Part I

In our view, Emergency Preparedness needs to focus more on limiting negative impacts to disasters than on preparing for specific events (earthquake, hurricane, etc.).  We discussed that philosophy and those Twelve Impacts in an earlier post.  You can see all of the items in the series to this point by clicking the 12 Impacts label category.

This is the eighth out of the twelve impacts.  We've also done a 3-part post on Evacuation Plans (I, II, III) and a Shelter-In-Place Plan (SIP).

We're going to drill down into one of the twelve impacts:  No Communication Services
You have no or limited access to modern electronic communication services.

We have become wholly dependent upon instant communications. We use telephones to keep in touch with others. We log on to the Internet to purchase goods and services. We use our cell phones to call for emergency services when needed. Email, blogging, social networking and texting are omnipresent.

This also includes one-way communications, such as television and radio. Devising alternative means of communication allows you to stay advised as to the severity of an event, and establish plans to react to the impact.

Possible Impacts:
  • Learning about emergencies - If access to television and radio are not available, you will be unable to determine the depth and breadth of the incident, and be unable to implement the various aspects of your emergency plans. Without phones/Internet/email, similar “information isolation” occurs. You are unable to ascertain the cause and effect of an emergency, and whether it is subsiding or escalating.
  • Communicating with family and friends - Aside from the emotional stress of not knowing the whereabouts and health of family and friends, you are unable to render assistance or resources if they are in need.
  • Communicating with government authorities - 911, etc. You place yourself in a position where you are unable to obtain assistance for crime, fire and medical assistance.
We're going to explore a number of scenarios - from very mild, all the way up to devastating.  You need to assess the likelihood of each occurring, and build your emergency plans around those assessments.

Scenario 1:  There has been an earthquake/hurricane/flood/terrorist attack/tornado, and communications services are available, but inconsistent.  Somewhere in America, this type of impact happens every month of every year.

Minimum Gear/Equipment - Cell phone, emergency phone list, pad of paper, pen, Sharpie, "sidewalk" chalk, a battery-powered radio.

Bonus Gear/Equipment - An emergency cell phone charger like this, this or this (cool!).  For the battery-powered options, be sure to have extra batteries!  And make sure you choose a charger that works with YOUR phone.  An up-grade to a hand-crank radio.

Both lists of gear/equipment are small, and can be kept in your at-home Bug Out Bag, and at-work (or on-the-road) Get Home Bag.  It is assumed you keep your cell phone on your person at all times.

Every emergency preparation kit - either at home, in a Bug-Out-Bag (BOB) or a work/car Get-Home-Bag (GHB) should have a printed list of important names, phone numbers (land line and cell, if possible) and email addresses.  Let me re-emphasize:  Printed!

You need to assume your cell phone, smart phone or pager has become damaged or destroyed - along with the electronic phonebook it contains - and you will need to borrow someone else's phone to contact your emergency list.

Your list should contain two or more names and numbers of contacts that are outside of your general area.  It has been show time and time again that, during an emergency, local phone "lines" become over-crowded and not operational.  Long distance lines and text networks tend to work as long as the cell towers are not damaged.  They found people buried after the Haitian Earthquake because of the text messages they sent!

Everyone that is a part of your group (family or whatever group you've established) should have the same list.  The person(s) that are out-of-area should be used (with their previous permission, of course) as a message center until full communications services have been re-established.

If you reach one of your contact numbers, but get their message center, leave a message with the following information (this script should be included with your contact list):
  • Your name (don't assume they will recognize your voice)
  • The current date and time
  • Your physical condition
  • Your current location (city, state, neighborhood, business name, address, top floor, bottom floor, garage - as much information as possible)
  • Who you are with, and their physical condition
  • Your plans ("I will be going to the XYZ company parking lot on Maple Street in Anytown")
  • When you will attempt to contact them again
  • Your contact number (including area code) and the contact number of any other people in your group
The Sharpie, pen and paper are to be used in the event public bulletin boards are established.  The chalk (kept in a zip-lock bag in your BOB/GHB) can be used to leave messages on the sides of buildings if necessary.

Attempt to send broadcast text messages and email messages providing the same information listed above.

Listen to your radio often.  You want to be sure you're not moving towards areas of devastation or violence.  Public entities will also be broadcasting about locations that will be offering public assistance.

Next:  Scenarios 2 and 3

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.


Suburban Survivalist said...

Chalk; another one for the bags.

I may get an extra pair of GMRS/FRS radios (have a pair in what I hope is a Faraday cage now) and put one in each of our vehicles. Probably not better than 0.5 miles in the city (or less), but maybe better than nothing. The GHB is getting a bit larger...

Chief Instructor said...

I'm in good shape with AM/FM dynamo radios (6) and short-waves (2) but need to get some two-way comms. I'll probably start with an inexpensive portable CB, then move into the walkie-talkies.

I ran into a site that has plans you can buy to make a mini-EMP "gun" (for lack of a better word). It might be something to put together to test the efficiency of a Faraday cage. It's well down on the "must do" list, though...

Chris said...

How about a handful of dollar store radio's and walkie talkies?

Technology has a habit of failing nicely when you want it to work, so having some cheap spares works nicely. Think cheap, disposable and run on batteries. I figured this out with MP3 players.

If you've had an iPod (and the main reason I'll never buy one ever again after the first one), once the battery goes bad, it's easier getting toothpaste back into a tube than try to repair a NiCad battery pack.

Chris said...

Chief Instructor...

If you are looking for a cheap CB radio I suggest you go hit a Salvation Army or whatever the equivalent is in your area. No shortage to be found and I would guess 90% of the them work for ten bucks.

Chief Instructor said...

CPL, that's a great idea. I hadn't even considered going to one of those places (Goodwill is our local joint). I think I'll visit them today...

Chris said...

Chief Instructor,

If I could recommend that you get something "stylish" from the 70's and american made. Get two or three of them. I don't know how handy you are with a saudering gun but they are pretty easy to repair and the components will be damn near identical since they aren't reliant on microprocessors. Just solid state components. So they'll be the size of a phone book and weight a bit more. And if you find an American make, it'll be built tonka tough with solid saudering and a (typically) a steel case.

You might get lucky and get one where the gain has been hacked to extend the range. Or with two or three at your disposal, you can easily learn cheaply how to repair and hack up a CB.

WIFI/Cell phones incidentally now sit in that spectrum now. SO if you want to mess with your neighbours turn on the old style set and start to munge their signals or just listen in.

Chief Instructor said...

Oh great. I need to learn something else - Electronics repair! ;-)

I'm pretty good with a soldering gun and may have to give this a whirl...

Chris said...

local libraries are your best friend there.

Last time anyone of them bought a book on electronic repair was probably early 80's. At least that's my take on it any time I hit the library.

If we were all wiped out and the only thing left standing were libraries, then by some happen chance aliens visited the libraries they would learn that we just discovered digital watches were the waves of the future and computers "may be" in every home some day.

I don't even think they teach electronic repair work anymore at community colleges or vo-teks any more.

The principals are pretty easy though. It's the reverse of plumbing. The energy flows into smaller and smaller "pipes" so it doesn't burn things out. Those pipes have resistance.

Nice thing with old cheap equipment, if it can use another one to fix it since the parts were pretty standard.

Like fixing an 8 block in a 78 Ford LTD with standard 8 block 79 Chevy parts. Unlike now......flap A with never fit in slot Z because it's all trade secrets cast from specifics parts to the model and maker for after sale parts resale value.

If the current stupidity of politics and economy of the world doesn't kill us, it will be the "standards and measures" corporations developed to make sure no one runs their crap ever again after a melt down. Sad eh. Sadder yet is they do it with medical equipment now.

Sorry, I'm rambling now. I'm an engineer and the only decent development I've seen in the last ten years is USB jump drives in terms of standard usage, still not sure how the hell other than how handy they are, how people managed to end up with them. Not like there were commercials to buy one. 11 years ago I spent 400 bucks on 16 megs, now they come in a three pack at 2 gigs a piece at Walmart for 19.99.

Chief Instructor said...

My youngest son is in school to become an electrician, and is on a LONG waiting list for an apprenticeship program. Problem is, there are tons of journeymen out of work, so he's running into a brick wall trying to get into the industry.