This article is an excellent tool for preparing communities about the pitfalls of communication during a disaster and what they can expect. Learn from other communities’ previous mistakes and make a targeted emergency plan that meets your community’s needs. A “taste” of what you might be facing in such a calamity will no doubt be of benefit to you and your organizational and operational preparations. Crucial key points to consider:
- Patience is key! Remember, after a disaster, there is a large volume of message traffic per channel on public-safety radios.
- Prepare yourself and others for equipment outages.
- Consider alternative forms of communication, including: print, Morse code, encoded data, television and telephone.
The First 72 Hours
- Communication is vital during these first hours! Stay levelheaded and prioritize the community as a whole. The “every man for himself” routine does not accomplish anything except instilling hatred and calamity.
- Plan Ahead! Are you in an urban area, which will likely experienced more concentrated damage? Or are you in the remote country, likely to be cut off from government communication services?
- Most people reach out for the telephone out of habit; however, be prepared that if the system is overloaded, it may not operate and function properly.
- Form a neighborhood watch system.
- The need for a combined response to communications emergencies has always been apparent. Concerned amateurs regularly band together under a local ARES and local clubs or service groups in support of local agencies.
- One person can be a hero! A solitary volunteer who, alone and by chance, happens upon a disaster scene and serves with distinction.
- Often times, it is a small, unaffiliated group of amateurs, which responds with assistance.
The key to communication during a disaster is calm preparedness. At critiques following a disaster, as always, the cry is heard: “Next time we must be better prepared!” Don’t want for next time – act now! Preparing a community action plan can help maintain peace and accord during times of peril and disaster, increasing chances of survival and community cohesiveness. Remember, communication is key to helping the community survive an emergency.