Episode 190 S5-26
Communicating During a Natural Disaster
Dark Days in Denver Ch 27
Dale and Lisa Goodwin
Family communications during a natural disaster are imperative. You should have an emergency binder prepared, especially if you have a family that is not as disaster minded as you are. You need to provide instructions for them if you are not there. The binder should contain step by step instructions on actions your family should take and where survival supplies are located. The binder should also contain emergency contacts and copies of all of your important documents.
It is also a good idea to pre-train your family. Have them locate the binder. Using the binder, have them examine any utility shutdown processes. Hands on training is always best. It provides experience that they can draw on in the future. During a natural disaster, it may not be possible for them to contact you with questions.
Receiving news about what is going on is also very important. Many survival minded people would think of ham (or amateur) radio first but it can take a whole lot of work to learn to use. A basic short wave radio could be all you need. These emergency radios usually will charge with a hand crank or solar panel. Some only receive National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather information while others have a myriad of features including: AM radio, flashlight, loud speaker, etc. Some of these radios can pick up information continents away. The more information you have in a disaster scenario the better.
The short wave radio system is fairly reliable as well. It will come down to where are they broad casting from and how destructive was the incident to their area. The government will probably find a way to broadcast information to the public, regarding safe zones, etc.
Ham radio networks are being developed today for unforeseen circumstances in the future. Many of these individuals are very serious about having the ability to get information to the public in the future and have back up generators for their systems. However, ham operators rely upon repeaters to pass their messages along to other individuals. Many of these repeaters will be down so the message may not travel as far.
Two way radios (like walkie talkies) are for short range usage and usually do not reach as far as the manufacturer suggests. Often times you also need a clear line of sight. You can only get them in a handheld version. You might as well spend a little extra change and go to GMRS.
All radio frequencies are basically the same. The police and emergency response organizations have a specific range of frequencies allocated to them. Armatures or ham operators can't use them. Another set of frequencies are designated to AM radio and FM. The police and emergency operators have an infrastructure designed to maintain radio connection. The average ham radio operator can only send their signal as far as the antennae on their roof can broadcast it. They rely upon repeaters after that. This creates the "daisy chain" effect. One operator can continue the message of another, sort of like when we used to play telephone tag as kids.
In a long term survival situation, the reliability of this chain may be in question. You would also be relying upon the messages of others. That's why it's a good idea to get involved now, so you can develop reliable connections.
Ham is not an acronym. How it became synonymous with Amateur radio is a phenomenon. Ham radio was developed after the telegraph and it was used a lot on boats. Today it's use is reserved mostly to hobbyists. You have to take a test to be able to speak on it. Once licensed, it is good for ten years but anyone who speaks on it must be licensed. This lack of ability for everyone in the family to be able to use it, makes practicing with a ham radio difficult.
GMRS (Global Mobile Radio Service) radio isn't a long range item, however, it's range is a whole lot better than FRS two way radios. One license will cover the whole family wherever they are and they are also good for ten years. This inclusive umbrella gives the whole family a chance to practice with the radio. There are not many frequencies designated for GMRS so it is somewhat easy for others to listen in. GMRS usually works better in an urban area with concrete structures.
There is another radio tool known as the CB. Ham usually performs better and CB is not as easy to travel with as a ham radio.
MURS - Multiuse Radio Service is an unlicensed two way radio system. It is typically used in the wilderness or by agencies like ski patrols. It has it's own frequency range as well.
Ham radio has a digital mode as well that allows you to use old Morse code. However, it does take some work to learn to use it and get licensed. Many people get it, take the test and then put it aside and never use it again. It is for this reason that GMRS is a good place to start.
AAMRON is a nationwide network of preparedness minded folks. These individuals are developing Ham networks now that can go into action during a natural disaster.
Aside from radio, social media networks can be a great source of information during a disaster, if you still have power or have a charged devise. You can form a social media network that is much more maintainable than a physical mutual assistance group. Even if you have a strong physical group now, be aware that in a disaster scenario the stress of the event will cause people to act differently.
Try to maintain some type of a working relationship with your neighbors. You don't have to be best buddies but know who they are. Preplanning now can prevent bad communication later. Fill in the blanks in your plan and communicate clearly to avoid mistakes. Practice and learn to use all of your equipment.
Another communication method that you may have to deploy is hand signals. They are hard to use and require practice. You also need to maintain visual contact with the individual you are communicating with. Plus, both individuals need to know the meaning of your signal.
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