If you speak with someone who has experienced a natural catastrophe, you will learn how difficult it is to establish contact soon following the event. Typically, electricity is out and landline connections are disrupted as a result of tower failure or other technical challenges. Even though we live in an exceedingly sophisticated age, having a backup communication system in the event of a crisis is an imperative must. Rescue crews utilize these technologies to contact isolated individuals, and families learn about their loved ones.
Occasionally, many catastrophes strike at the same time or within a short time span, as occurred in Virginia in 2011. Residents have had to contend with devastation caused by tornadoes, Tropical Storm Lee, Hurricane Irene, and a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. It appeared as though God had an issue with that particular location on Earth, and some who were there recall how difficult it was to contact authorities or dial their region’s emergency number in the minutes and days following the incident.
We are accustomed to communicating at any given moment with individuals hundreds of kilometers away, which makes the necessity for an alternate communication method during a crisis appear outmoded and unneeded. We frequently forget that our communication equipment is powered by electricity and requires signal towers to reach the receiver device.
Communication is critical in our daily lives, but it becomes even more critical during and after a tragedy. Individuals must communicate to their loved ones that they are safe and that their entire family is protected as well. Additionally, there are instances when family members get separated.
We can all agree that earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and all other natural calamities are terrifying and awe-inspiring. Mother Nature’s wrath causes panic and a loss of composure, and occasionally families become separated in a rush. That is why it is critical that everyone understands what to do in the event of an emergency and how to contact authorities as soon as they are safe.
How to communicate during a natural disaster?
Natural disaster planning is critical and must be done in advance, particularly in terms of communication. You must prepare a communication system that will function properly in the event of a calamity. For instance, if you have Voice over IP (VoIP), this will very certainly not work.
Ascertain that you are aware of the sort of landline phone service you are utilizing. Modern ones require power to operate, and will, of course, fail to operate in the event of a power outage. The majority of phone providers have abandoned copper wire, which is why you must ensure that your phone will function in severe circumstances. You can contact your phone company and inquire about your landline’s kind.
If you have a battery-operated phone or one with a battery-operated backup system, your problem is solved. If you do not have one, inquire whether your service provider can supply one. Additionally, ensure that the batteries are charged and keep a spare on hand in case of an emergency. Check them on a regular basis to ensure that everything is in order. You do not want to be caught in a hurricane with a battery-operated phone and no viable batteries.
Ensure that your cell phone is fully charged, and an additional battery wouldn’t harm. If the wireless connection remains functional during a natural disaster, you may find yourself using the phone several times.
There are times when the power goes out but secure Wi-Fi remains available, allowing you to connect to the internet and read the latest news about the disaster or send e-mails and chat with family and friends. That is why it is critical to charge both your tablet and laptop. In the event of a power outage, you may recharge your phone’s battery using a USB cord connected to your laptop.
A simple radio gadget has the potential to save lives. Therefore, regardless of the source of power (battery, solar, or hand-cranked), you must maintain one close at hand. During a natural catastrophe, news organizations and radio stations broadcast to keep the public informed. This way, you’ll know whether the threat has passed or whether you need remain in the shelter. Additionally, you may learn about missing individuals and other issues. The Ambient Weather WR111-B is an excellent product because it includes NOAA-specific channels. If you’re interested in seeing further models similar to this one, check out our evaluations of the top emergency radios.
If a natural catastrophe occurs and you retain network and Internet access, avoid using the line for voice calls unless an emergency occurs. At such situations, individuals must contact emergency services, and lines become highly congested. If you have service and access to the Internet, send a text or e-mail to your loved ones and free up your voice line.
Conserve battery life on your phone by setting a low-power profile. Reduce the brightness of your screen and avoid being online unless absolutely necessary. You never know how long the power will be off, and the last thing you want is to find yourself with a dead phone in the midst of an emergency. You can even switch off your phone if you are unable to obtain service and there are no bars. Seeking for a signal is a somewhat energy-intensive operation for your phone’s battery.
Ascertain that you are not overburdening the network. Wait at least 10 seconds before redialing a number. Continuous redialing in short periods of time may cause network congestion, preventing anybody from making a call.
Do not attempt to phone the emergency number unless you are experiencing an emergency. Typically, in the event of a disaster, authorities establish separate non-emergency lines to which you may contact and obtain information.
Consider forwarding calls to your smartphone if you have a landline at home that allows call forwarding. This manner, even if you are forced to flee, you may continue to receive calls from your residence.
If the power goes out and your smartphone dies, you may charge it using your car’s charger.
As you can see, communication is critical during a crisis, and if you are fortunate enough to have a functional phone, avoid wasting its power on non-essential activities like gaming and viewing movies.
Other types of emergency communication systems
Nowadays, our primary mode of communication is via mobile phones, landlines, tablets, and computers. If you’re lucky, these technologies may assist you in surviving a natural catastrophe by allowing you to communicate with friends and family or with authorities and rescue personnel.
Nonetheless, there are other instances in which conventional and contemporary modes of communication have failed completely, leaving isolated individuals at the whim of chance. That is why an alternate communication system is critical in a shelter or in a location where people congregate in anticipation of securely surviving a natural disaster. If you have one at home, that is ideal, but if you do not, you should know where the nearest one is in case you need to contact rescue services.
The most effective Emergency Communication System, or ECS, must possess the following characteristics:
- Time efficiency and speed – when a disaster strikes, people must act immediately. This can only happen if they are kept aware about crises and dangerous circumstances in a timely manner. That is why a good ECS must be capable of transmitting accurate information at a high rate of speed;
- Affordability – individuals would never invest in an exorbitant ECS unless they wish to join a rescue squad (and maybe not even then). To be effective, a communication system must be inexpensive to a significant segment of the population. It’s useless to know that there is a really nice, high-tech ECS on the market if you don’t possess one in an emergency circumstance.
- Everybody can use it — suppose you invested in the latest ECS on the market but didn’t have time to read the handbook. Now since there are no instructions, you’re at a loss as to how to utilize it. A well-designed ECS must be intuitive and simple to use.
- Sender and receiver – In an emergency case, not only must messages be sent out, but also instructions must be received over the ECS. We recognize that this may seem archaic in light of the times in which we live, but some early ECS were limited to sending out emergency notifications.
- The first solution entails the use of radio waves.
- Radio waves are propagated by the Earth’s ionosphere, making them the ideal medium for communication under the worst-case scenarios of natural disasters. The sole downside may be that the majority of them are powered by electricity, but they also include backup systems powered by batteries or solar energy.
Three different types of gadgets are available for contacting first responders:
- Short-wave radio that may be used to broadcast messages to anybody with the necessary receiver equipment. Given that this is a long-range communication system utilizing radio waves, it has the potential to be the technology that saves many lives when there is no other option.
- During tornado or hurricane season, you’ll want to keep a weather radio nearby. This gadget activates automatically in response to an emergency broadcast informing everyone of a severe weather warning.
- Two-way radio has a range of many miles and is comprised of two devices capable of transmitting and receiving messages. They are quite compact and simple to operate, which is why first responders choose to have them in their gear. A comprehensive selection of such devices is available in our in-depth post on the best walkie talkie with the best range.
These are the primary pieces of radio technology that can assist you in times of crisis, such as natural catastrophes. Even if you possess a mobile phone, it’s a good idea to have at least one of them. If your phone becomes unusable, a radio will undoubtedly save the day.
As you may expect, ECS are classified into two categories according on their owner: public and private. Private gadgets include, but are not limited to, mobile phones, radio devices, tablets, and computers. They are intended to be used by a single individual.
The purpose of public devices is to alert as many people as possible simultaneously by visual and/or audible signals. As a result, we have:
On public advertisement panels, subway notification panels, and so on, you’ll discover digital electronic signs with LEDs.
Electronic signage utilizing LCD televisions and monitors in public areas such as hospitals, bars, coffee shops, and retail establishments;
Massive speech systems, often found on public buildings, were employed to alert individuals in the immediate neighborhood to seek cover.
The media (television, newspapers, internet publications, and radio broadcasts) is another public alternative communication medium during a crisis, however if you want to inform the populace to an impending risk, the systems described above are more successful.
Satellite communication system
Catastrophic occurrences such as storms, earthquakes, flooding, and/or fire are frequently followed by widespread insanity, and the absence of a functioning communication infrastructure exacerbates the situation.
Thus, when landlines and electricity fail and no contemporary or conventional system operates, satellites remain operational and continue their safe orbit above the earth. This enables rescue teams and emergency responders to address immediate communication requirements through the use of satellites and satellite technologies. This kind of communication is mostly employed by humanitarian groups and first responders who are frequently present during large-scale disasters such as Haiti.
Several instances demonstrate the fragility of a terrestrial communication structure. Communication towers are frequently damaged in these types of incidents, leaving people in the dark and unable to contact authorities or request assistance. What occurred was as follows:
- Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans;
- Pakistan was struck by a tremendous earthquake;
- In 2011, Japan was again struck by a big earthquake.
Following these and several more incidents, the need of a wireless communication system that is not reliant on a terrestrial framework became apparent to local governments and authorities. This is the point at which satellite communication enters the picture. They provide a number of benefits over terrestrial communication, but the most significant advantage is that they operate while floating around our world, unaffected by wind, water, or fire.
There are two primary types of satellite communication systems that someone may employ in an emergency: Geostationary Satellite Systems (GEO) and Low Earth Orbit Satellites (LEOS) (LEO).
GEO provides a comprehensive variety of communication services, including phone, broadband data, and video, and is positioned 36,000 kilometers above our globe. They are typically stationed in one location and are owned by a country or organization that responds to particular (fixed or mobile) equipment installed on Earth (antennas and mobile terminals). They are not only important as a backup communication system during disasters; they are also extremely valuable for warning people about seismic activity that might develop into a catastrophe and flooding.
Additionally, governments can broadcast warnings and maintain a steady flow of information during times of difficulty. Approximately 300 commercial GEOs are now floating above our heads, outside the terrestrial atmosphere.
LEOs are located in low orbits between 780 to 1500 kilometers and are used to carry low-speed data and communications. They are more easily contacted with the use of a mobile device the size of a cellular phone. Due to the portability of terrestrial devices, rescue teams may employ these satellites in any circumstance.
Satellite communication is only effective in the event of natural catastrophes if local authorities, humanitarian groups, and first responders plan ahead. They must first determine the region and the sort of satellite units that will be required. There are four primary categories:
- Handheld – satellite phones that communicate via a mobile satellite provider. This sort of equipment is reasonably priced and extremely easy to operate. Additionally, they adhere to the first requirement of a good ECS: they are capable of sending and receiving signals at breakneck speeds.
- Terminals for mobile communications – significantly larger equipment that is often controlled from within a car (which is required to transport it). This gadget is necessary for ultra-high-speed communications that include broadband data and video.
- Fixed satellite communications — large equipment that is ideally built in advance of a catastrophe, in a region next to the dangerous zone. These devices are required for an extended period of time and support a wide variety of applications (pre-disaster analysis and environmental scanning), as well as data transmission and reception at breakneck rates.
- While portable GPS devices will not provide you with the ability to contact authorities, they will provide you with your accurate position and make it simpler for you to reach regions where you know you may get assistance.
Are you truly ready?
As you can see, depending on the sort of communication necessary, certain preparations must be made in advance, such as:
- Selecting a satellite provider and submitting an application;
- Determining the required bandwidth;
- Determining the sort of gadget required;
- Installing the gadget and picking a team to work with is the first step.
As with anything else, choosing the appropriate alternate communication channel involves careful planning in the event of a natural disaster. Every individual must understand that disasters are so named because they tend to crush everything in their path, beginning with houses, automobiles, and trees and ending with communication towers. If this occurs, you cannot rely on conventional means to notify authorities and rescue crews; you must have a backup plan.