Monday, August 12, 2013

Emergency Communications- Introduction


I am bringing on a few incredible guest bloggers to help out with posts in areas of Emergency Communications, Camping/Outdoor Cooking, Gardening, Home Canning, and other preparedness areas we could all benefit from. Today is the first of many posts from a guest blogger I have known for years, Ben. I hope you enjoy what he has to share and be sure to comment with questions!

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One often overlooked area of preparation for an emergency is what do you do to talk to those you need to in the event of a power outage? How do you know what the weather is going to be, get the news, and other such things? How can you do your part to not contribute to a loss of communications, and even better, how can you help contribute to getting such communications back online? These and more I will cover over the coming weeks, but for now, let's start with a few simple things you can do.

First of all, let's talk about cell phones. If you think there might be an emergency coming up, charge your cell phones, and leave them on the charger. This is great for those instances that you can tell are coming for days (Hurricanes, for instance). But what if you don't have days? Make sure you have the ability to charge your phone from your car. This will allow you to charge even if you lose power, which could be vitally important.

{Julie jumping in here... Thrive Life offers an awesome product called the Solar Link FRX2 which not only is a rechargeable weather radio with AM/FM/NOAA Weather stations it has its own solar panel! Which means even without notice you can stay connected. Best part? It has a mini USB cable that you can use to charge your smart phone! It is an affordable option for everyone. Check it out.}

Speaking of cell phones, how should you use them during an emergency? The FCC has issued a set of guidelines to help facilitate communications during an emergency. They apply primarily to cell phones and other wireless communication, secondarily to traditional phone lines, and only to a minimal extent to internet communications. Essentially, the idea is to keep phone calls short, use text messaging where you can, and please don't be doing high bandwidth activities! It is extremely common to jam the phone lines in an emergency. In other words, if there's a serious event going on, send a text to mom to tell her everything's alright, but don't sit and talk with her then for an hour!

Okay, so you've managed that, now what? The next most important thing is to know what's going on in the world, even if the power goes out. There are 3 types of broadcasts that will help you to figure this out. Any of these you choose to get should be able to be powered with batteries, and it's even better if you can charge them while you use them. I'll show an example of that later.

The easiest for most people is broadcast radio. If nothing else, you can use your car radio, but far better than that would be to have one inside, that is easily portable. Another easy one is a National Weather Service radio. These are rather inexpensive, and will allow you to get weather alerts. I bought one on Amazon for about $40 that has a stand that will charge it while it's in use. There's even one, as Julie mentioned, that will cover AM/FM radio as well, and charge your cell phones! This could easily be carried around as needed as well. I should note, these will only work if you are in an area covered by NWS. I talk on my blog about how to extend coverage. The last is television, take a look at battery powered TVs.

In future posts, I'll continue the topic of emergency communications, at every level I know about, but for now, these simple tips can help you be prepared for the next emergency that comes your way!

Ben is an Amateur Radio Operator with an interest in Emergency Communications. He is the author of a blog about his adventures in learning about Amateur Radio, known as The Making of a Ham.

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