How to Communicate With Loved Ones After a Disaster
After a disaster, it can often be difficult to communicate with loved ones. Hurricanes, tornadoes and other emergencies may cause power outages or overwhelm cellular services, sometimes making normal lines of communication nearly impossible.
Here are some tips to help communicate with your family in an emergency:
Before a Disaster Strikes
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offers suggestions on how to prepare to communicate before disaster even strikes:
Keep a Non-Cordless Phone at Home
If you have a traditional landline at home — one that isn’t Internet-based — make sure you have at least one corded phone connected. In the event that there’s a power outage, your cordless model, which requires electricity, may not work.
Keep Car Chargers Handy
Get in the habit of keeping your cellphone and laptop fully charged, and have a car charger available in the event of a power outage. Consider buying additional batteries and solar or hand-powered chargers for your devices.
Create a Communication Plan
Because you and your loved ones may be separated when disaster strikes, make sure to develop a communication plan that’s specific to your family. Ready.gov recommends choosing an emergency meeting place that’s in your neighborhood, and one that’s out of your neighborhood. Your plan should also detail how you will contact each other. For instance, designate an out-of-town contact for everyone to notify that they’re safe, or set an “on air” time where you’ll each power up your phones and call or text with your status. It’s also a good idea to work with your children’s school or daycare to understand their emergency communication procedures.
During and After a Disaster
There are also some steps you can take to improve the likelihood of communicating successfully with loves ones during a disaster and its immediate aftermath:
Text and Use Social Media
Cell service can become congested during an emergency. Instead, try text messaging or emailing, which, the FCC says, are services that are less likely to experience network congestion. Also, consider posting your status on social media or registering on the American Red Cross’ Safe and Well website, so that loved ones who may be searching for you know that you’re OK.
Forward Your Home Phone
If you have a landline and call-forwarding at home, the FCC suggests forwarding your home phone number to your cellphone if you’ll be away, or if conditions warrant an evacuation.
Conserve Your Phone’s Battery Life
You can extend the life of your cellphone battery charge by reducing the brightness of your screen, turning off Wi-Fi, closing apps that aren’t critical and putting your phone in airplane mode. Additionally, if you’re able to make a call, consider updating your voicemail message so that, even if inbound calls go to voicemail, you’re able to offer loved ones an update on your well-being.
Practicing these tips can help you and your family to stay informed throughout an emergency.
Originally published on July 10, 2013.