Communication is the foundation of any relationship...

...even in an emergency!

Your family needs a communications plan.  Whether it's a flat tire on the highway, a trip to the ER, a storm that knocks out power, or a devastating earthquake, knowing in advance who to call to get help or to tell you're OK is critical.  Effective communication often helps not only to provide peace of mind, but also to keep others out of danger as well.

Most government and disaster relief agencies work directly with the media to get information out to the public.  What to do, where to go, what to expect.  Use your radio, television, and internet to stay on top of events.  Remember that the electricity may be out.

When the power goes out, your home phone may still work, if you have a landline phone that does not require a power source (no cordless) and doesn't run on VOIP, such as Vonage or U-verse.

Unless they have intentionally prepared in advance, your employer's phone system will probably not work during a power outage.

When you don't have a cell phone signal, you may have internet access and texting ability on your cell phone.

Even if you don't have a signal at the moment, texting from your cell phone will retry sending a message from your phone several times.

Keep your cell phone charged at every opportunity - at work, in the car, at home.

You need a simple way to recharge your cell phone when the power is out.  I keep a car adapter and a crank radio adapter.  You can buy solar chargers as well that obviously require sunlight.

You need your contacts' phone numbers and email address with you in digital (on your phone) and written form in an emergency.  If your phone is dead, you may be able to use someone else's or have them call for you.

A benefit of speed dial is that you are more likely to use it in an emergency.  Simpler is better.  (I just hit one key on my phone to speed dial.) The downside of speed dial is that we often don't know the numbers by heart.

Some online email providers allow you to send messages as text.

Local and federal government agencies, research universities, and disaster assistance agencies monitor twitter for disaster updates, status reports, and immediate needs. 

FRS and GMRS radios may be as helpful in an emergency as they are on vacation.  But only if you know where they are and the batteries are charged up.

Your family needs an out of town/out of state contact in case of emergencies.  Phone systems or disaster relief agencies may permit long distance calls, even when local lines are jammed.  Let your family practice using this person as an "information central."

You are likely to respond to an emergency as you've practiced, unrehearsed plans go out the window.

Red Cross and other agencies use resources and technology to help families and friends find one another during and after a large scale disasters.

Recent wide-scale disasters like the 9-11 terrorist attack, hurricane Katrina, California wildfires, and the Haiti earthquake have made the public and first responders aware of the capabilities and limitations of cell phones in a disaster.

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