How to Create an Emergency Communication Plan: A Simple Guide
Natural disasters are unpredictable; they won’t wait until you get home to your loved ones, or you have an emergency kit ready. A natural calamity can strike at any time and in any place. When that happens, most families are thrown into turmoil since they don’t have an emergency communication plan in place.
The numerous missing person boards that spring up after every natural disaster in the country shows that many people don’t have such a plan in place. For instance, it took the combination of a missing person’s board and website to reunite many families following the Hurricane Katrina disaster, back in 2005.
Rather than taking chances with your family’s safety and well being during such trying times, you’re better off with a reliable plan. Thus, how to create an emergency communication plan is a knowledge we should all be equipped with, and we are here to help.
How to Create an Emergency Communication Plan
At first glance, an emergency communication plan might sound complicated, but it really isn’t. It’s merely a systematic series of steps that each member of the family should take after a disaster to help keep in contact with other family members.
When a disaster such as an earthquake strikes, the regular lines of communication, including landlines and cellphones, are disrupted. Since you can’t make calls, your first reaction would be to get home to check on the family.
The problem is, what if you get there, and no one is home? Are you going to wait for them? How do you ensure your loved ones are safe and secure if you can’t establish contact?
A dozen scenarios can play out during a disaster, and as such, it’s critical that you have an emergency plan which covers all the possibilities. To stay safe in any possible scenario, an emergency communication plan must include five essential items:
1. Communication Methods
Usually, a cellphone is an excellent way to communicate during an emergency but not during natural disasters as sometimes the networks go down during hurricanes. If the system is still functional, a mass call event results and it becomes overloaded.
A mass call event occurs when a network gets bogged down by too many people making calls at the same time. FEMA recommends that you try texting your family instead of calling as the texts are more likely to go through while freeing up the lines for the emergency responders.
In case of a flooded network, local calls can’t get through, but long-distance ones usually do. You can choose an out-of-state individual and designate them as the central contact person. Then each member of the family can call the primary contact person and update their status.
Alternatively, you can have your family member switch to two-way radios as your default disaster communication method. Such broadcasts don’t rely on the network grid and will work just fine when there’s a network overload. It’s advisable that you keep a two-way radio in your car, home, school, or work.
2. Establish Meeting Points
A designated meeting point is a crucial part of your communication plan as it tells everyone where to go if they can’t get a hold of each other. Naturally, your home would be the primary meeting point.
However, it’s crucial that you establish a secondary venue in case your home is no longer a safe place. Pick a local place for the secondary meeting place and a third one that’s a little bit further away. The other meeting points can be a friend’s or a relative’s house.
3. Action Plans in Case of Failed Communication
Despite all your efforts, there’s a possibility that none gets into contact or shows up at the meeting points. A lot of scary scenarios can be responsible for your family members, not showing up.
Establishing a protocol helps you chart the way forward without taking a stab in the dark. Some protocols can include the waiting times at each meeting point before moving on to the next one. You should also devise a way for a member to communicate that they’ve proceeded to the next point.
A transportation protocol should define how people should make their way to the next meeting point. If you have kids, be sure to learn their emergency procedures to know where they will be, and how to contact them.
4. Create Emergency Contact Information
Most people store their emergency contacts on their phones as it’s easier than to memorize them. With that being said, that’s not the best way to go about it as the phone might sustain some damage or run out of charge, leaving you stranded.
You’re better off compiling all the necessary information and printing it out and then laminating afterward. Some of the information on the card could include phone numbers, home and meeting point addresses, and emergency services numbers.
5. In Case of Emergency Contact (ICE)
Medics and rescue workers look for an In Case of Emergency number when attending to an injured person. They then go ahead to contact the person on the other end and relay the situation.
Without an ICE number, the hospital staff has no way of reaching your family members. That leaves your loved ones worried sick, and it causes them to engage in a frantic search.
It’s imperative that each member of your family learns how to program their ICE numbers on their phone. That can save you countless hours of searching all the local hospitals in your neighborhood for an injured family member.
Now that you know how to create an emergency communication plan, the next step is to put it to the test. You should treat your emergency plan as a fire drill and practice it until everyone has it down to the last detail. It might seem like overkill, but skipping this step might render your family communication plan useless.
You want to ensure that everyone in the family knows and understands what to do and can follow through with it during a disaster. You also need to update your emergency contact information to accommodate new changes.