[an error occurred while processing this directive] Communications


by Bryan A. Thompson

Last Updated 2/10/2003



Maintaining communication with the outside world is essential during storms, blackouts and other disasters.  Contacting relatives during times of emergency, calling for help.  Without radio, television or internet, you won't know about tornado, hurricane, thunderstorm or flood warnings.  Some transportation can be eliminated if communication exists. 



Communications require electricity to function.  Click here for information about obtaining electricity in times of emergency.

Some communications require that others who supply communications services also have electricity.  If the telephone company, cell phone company, cable television company or internet provider doesn't have electricity, they can't provide service to you and you're out of luck. 

Land telephone lines are fairly reliable (unless a storm damages wires leading to your home).  However, if the emergency is widespread, it may be impossible to get a line - "all circuits are busy". 

Cell phone towers are huge lightning and tornado magnets.  If the power goes out, they have about an hour of backup power (here, anyway), and then you're out of luck.

Cable television is fairly reliable in my area.  During the last blackout, I still had TV and cable modem service a few hours into the blackout.  However I wouldn't rely on this as the lines are exposed to any and all weather events.



Ham Radio - If you have an Amateur Radio license, you know how valuable HAM Radio operators are during times of emergency.  They do this sort of thing for fun, but they're also regularly practicing what will be needed to re-establish communications if an emergency should happen.  It's fairly easy to get a license, and it's no longer necessary to practice or learn Morse Code.  Radio Shack sells a no-code study book for $6.

CB / FRS - These are short-range radio communications methods that don't require a license.  I don't see them being valuable during times of emergency unless everyone in the family lives within 2 miles of you and has these radios.

SatPhone - Unless the satellites are jammed or you don't pay the bill, I don't see anything that would cause these to be unavailable.  Unlike cell phones, they work anywhere in the world.  Hopefully this is the direction that cell phones are headed.

Direct PC - Depending on how internet-savvy you are, this is a good way to maintain text/video communications and to receive up-to-date weather reports.  These no longer require a land line, the satellite dishes are now bi-directional. 

TV/FM Antenna or DirectTV- Most everyone in these parts either has cable television or a DirectTV type small satellite dish.  If you have a large satellite dish and a wind storm comes along, you're probably screwed.  If you have a small satellite dish and have emergency power available to the receiver and television, you're probably in good shape.  Otherwise you should get an FM / Television antenna and any cables you need to connect it to your television. 

Radios and Televisions - One of those small battery-powered televisions might be a good idea if you're in an area where antenna reception is possible.  An AM/FM/Shortwave radio is a great idea.  Make sure you either have batteries or it's one of the wind-up powered models.


Emergency Communications Tips

Plan way way ahead in this area.  Once the emergency hits, it's too late. 

Get an LCD monitor and TV.  These are much more energy efficient than standard CRT monitors and TVs.  This will reduce the amount of electricity you need to supply during an emergency.

Cell Phones - If you don't have one, get one.  Keep cell phone batteries charged, and keep the phone turned off unless you're making or expecting a call to conserve the energy stored in your battery.   Most of us who regularly use have a car charge cord, and that some energy can be stored there.  Some manufacturers sell phone chargers that are powered by an air-activated battery or standard 9V battery. 

Make sure all communications devices that require electricity (radios, satellite receivers, televisions, cable modems, computers, cordless and cellular phones) continue to be powered during times of emergency. 


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