Thursday, January 29, 2009

Communication: What's your plan B?

Starting last Saturday or so, our phone line became staticky, if that's a word. Not just the "wow, you sound like you're in Jamaica" static, but the "I think that's a radio station but I can't tell if they are singing or talking" static. Not good. Inconvenient. Annoying. And all that. So a repair person was called, came to the house, tested the line, left a number, and left. We picked up the phone. Still radio-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-static. So the repair person was called again. There was no improvement until this morning.

To be fair, the static was inconsistent--sometimes you could tell who you were talking to, and what they were saying, and sometimes you couldn't. The most monumental of these problems came yesterday, right before school. Someone from the school called, and I heard someone speaking, and used deductive reasoning to figure out who was on the other end of the line. Thing is, I couldn't be sure I was right. I finally explained that our phone was acting up, and said that the person should call my husband's cell phone. I'm pretty sure that the speaker on the other end said that they would do that, and the conversation was over.

I was fortunate in this instance because I knew where my children were at the time--with my husband, who was driving them to school because of the extremely cold weather we have been experiencing lately. Hence, I also knew where my husband was (which was helpful because he was in the proximity of the situation and had a phone that worked). Suffice it to say that if you have already (correctly) surmised that I am somewhat of a worry-wart, you can imagine how I would have felt if I thought there was an emergency involved, and there was no way to take care of it quickly. So, I am extremely grateful that the timing was such as it was. I still wanted to make sure that my husband had been contacted, and that he knew to talk to the teacher I thought had called, so I went to the computer and texted him a message. When we did talk to each other (for some reason, though the static was still there, we managed to make do when his cell phone was involved) he told me that they needed extra help in one of the classrooms that day, so he was able to tell the teacher (yay, I was right about which one had called) that I could come in. Situation handled. But definitely not in the way that we would ordinarily have handled it.

What if it had been an emergency, and normal methods of communication were not available, as in this case, to even learn about the problem? I outlined my plan B, but I think that this experience has highlighted the fact to me that when ordinary communication services are disrupted, you may end up with a problem whose solution is not food, water, warmth, etc., especially if the people in your group are separated when the emergency strikes. There may be people not in your immediate group that you would worry about in the case of an emergency--what's your plan B when it comes to communication when ordinary means (such as phones and even cell phones) don't work out?

Sometime this morning after I checked and heard the roar of a thousand seashells over the phone, I checked again, and our line had finally cleared up. Not a problem now, and I'm grateful for that. Would it surprise you to read that now I am going to look up more options that would help with the communication portion of emergency preparedness? I can only think of one option at the moment that would help with emergency communication in the midst of a crisis, but it would have to be set up well in advance. I'll save the only one that I've heard of for another post, and leave you with the question: (hoping, of course, that you'll end up giving me more options :)

What do you have set up in terms of communication methods in the case of an emergency, and how does it work?

Hey, if you share, we'll all have more options. Gotta love more options... :)


HermitJim said...

Good post...and it touches on a subject a lot of folks may not have thought about a lot.

Good reminder!

RoadScribe said...

Ham Radio: get the whole family involved. There are frequencies you can hit a repeater and make a phone call. Ham's will help you contact a family member in a disaster. Join a club near you. Ham Radio requires a license without the Morse Code test, but I'd advise learning that also. Kids pick up the code fast as a second language. Using the Internet there is Skype (Internet Phone), cheaper than my TracFone and a new one out called MagicJack for around 40.00/year.
Hope this helps;)

RoadScribe of the New Mexico Preppers:
And what have you done today to prep for the perfect storm.

Anonymous said...

Marie, can I suggest that you( or your hubby) and all your readers get your HAM radio License. You do not need to know morse code anymore for a basic license. But you do need a license to buy equipment from reputable dealers. A basic Ham outfit can cost as little as $300 to $400 including an antenna. I have a transciever in all our vehicals and a hand held radio. This is much better and more effective than CB, MHRS or yelling across the yard.


Carl in Wisconsin

Marie said...

HermitJim--I was one of those people that didn't really think about it until the situation arose--I gotta get working on it now! Thanks for your comment!

RoadScribe--I need to look into the Ham Radio process--I have heard about it but I heard you had to take classes, etc. and that it was difficult to get a license. I would like to know the Morse Code, but it's always less pressure if it isn't required... Hadn't heard about Skype or MagicJack, so I should probably look into that. Thanks for the great ideas--I appreciate your comment!

Carl--Thanks for including a price range on a HAM setup--I was wondering about that, but of course in an emergency situation the ability to communicate is priceless. I also didn't know you could have access in vehicles. I guess I have to learn more about all of it... Thanks for your comment! (Your comment about yelling across the yard made me laugh!)

Anonymous said...

Ham class started Saturday @8am. Took the test at 3:30 found out I passed and confirmed ARRL license and got call sign 4 days later. Followed advice of local Ham club members and ordered 2 meter (WATER PROOF!)handheld radio (good for local area using repeaters out to about 100 miles) , antenna (for car top), extra battery pack for about $250. VERY EASY PROCESS!! On the air in under 2 wks! Next step is a dual band radio for the truck extimate another $400 for that one. Go for it!!! Communication is CRITICAL. Before even water in priority in some cases. Communication can save you from making fatal mistakes. Remember all those poor uninformed people slogging to the superdome in NOL?!!! If only they knew what they were in for.....

Marie said...

Anonymous--The more I hear about the ham radio, the more I want to get one. I'm especially encouraged to find out that it can be pretty easy to do everything required, so thanks for the details. You make some great points about communication--thanks for your sharing your experience!

Anonymous said...

So I have just found your blog by way of

I am trying to find the answer to this question you posted...

"I can only think of one option at the moment that would help with emergency communication in the midst of a crisis, but it would have to be set up well in advance. I'll save the only one that I've heard of for another post"

Have you answered that and I just can't find it?

Thanks for your blog.

Marie said...

Freedomcrusader--Wow, it's been a long time since this post, so I'm actually not sure what I was thinking about at the time. My best guess, however, is that it is something that I think has been mentioned on other blogs since this post. ( Clarification:Ham radio would be the only other way I can think of to communicate in a crisis, so the idea involves being more effective in gathering information rather than an actual way to communicate. Sorry if I was unclear.)

So, the idea is this--have a "communication tree" for your family or group that you are responsible for, that involves someone outside your immediate area. This would need to be set up in advance to work effectively. For example, if most of your group is in Idaho, you might want to choose someone in Utah or Wyoming (or wherever) as your designated person to be called in the case of an emergency. If "Aunt Bea" is in Wyoming, while the rest of the family is in Idaho, then she might be a good choice, and this would be how it could work:

An earthquake hits Idaho, and the power goes out. Everyone is fine, but there is no way to communicate that in the area effectively. Once there is a way to communicate, (and it is likely that everyone would be trying to call out at the same time once a method was re-established) everyone in Idaho calls Aunt Bea to tell her their status. That way, Aunt Bea can share everyone's news as people call in, and ideally there would only be one phone call to make to find out if everyone is all right. That, or only one person to call back to get an update. Not totally ideal, but a lot better option than having to call cousin Sue, Uncle Reginald, brothers, sisters, and aunts individually trying to frantically determine what is happening to everyone.

Hope that helps, and thanks for your question!