What if some kind of emergency happened? Who will you need to contact? Have you planned out in advance how you will contact them? What if you need a plan B? (What if you need a plan C?) What methods will you use? When and how often will you try to communicate?
These questions are best answered in advance. In other words, you need a communication plan. Here are the things that a good communication plan should address:
Question 1: “Do you have one?” – This should be straight-forward. If you don’t have one, you need to make one.
Question 2: “Who do you need to contact?” – In an event of an emergency, with whom do you need to communicate? In answering this, be specific, (ex. family members, extended family, church leaders/members, neighbors, friends, employers/employees, etc.) The answers to this question will help you to determine how often to attempt contact, and by what methods you should be using.
Question 3: “When and how often do you need to communicate?” – This depends on with whom you are communicating. For example, you may plan on attempting to communicate with your family members every half hour on the hour, but may need to contact your employer only once. These answers will depend upon who you feel you need to contact, and for what purpose. In making your plan, arrange a specific set times, such as every hour on the hour, 6:00 p.m. every day, or every 15 minutes (0:00, 0:15, 0:30, 0:45) until contact is made. The more specific your plan is, the better.
Question 4: “How far do you need to communicate?” – Where are those with whom you need to communicate? Are they all located within a few miles? Are they across town? Are they within the state? Are they located in another state, or even another country? The answers to this question will help to narrow the type of communication methods you should plan to use. For example, if everyone were to be within close vicinity to you, simple FMRS radios may be sufficient in an emergency. However, if someone were to be located more distantly, you would need to rely on a different method such as CB or ham radio (assuming if phone or internet services were out due to an emergency.)
Question 5: “What methods will you use, and are they reliable in an emergency?” – If the emergency impacts many people in an area at once, you would need a method of communication that would not be affected by a high volume of communication traffic. Also, consider what you would use in the event of a power outage, (either short or long term.) You must also ensure that you would be able to reach the distances addressed by the question above.
Question 6: “Do you have back up plans?” – Have at least two other back up plans available, (and on paper,) that would be used in case your primary plan is not possible. For example, if the primary plan involves a cellular phone, and the phone in unable (due to lack of power, too much traffic, etc.) to operate, what do you plan on using in its stead? In addition, if you cannot reach a person on your contact list, do you have a third-party that you could reach as an in-between contact?
Question 7: “Do the others in your plan know of your plan?” – Make sure you discuss your plans with those named in your plan.
Question 8: “Have you practiced your plan?” – What was the result? Did everyone understand the plan? What, if anything, do you need to change?
As you answer these questions, you will get a greater idea on what your communication needs would be in an emergency. You will get an idea of what equipment you should acquire and what skills you will need to practice. Of course, since everyone’s circumstances are different, it should be clear that there is not a “one size fits all” approach to communication plans. The important thing is that you have a plan….not just any plan, but one very well thought-out plan. Those who would depend upon you should know your plan, and preparations should be made in advance in order to successfully execute that plan. Such preparations would definitely prove to be beneficial, maybe even life-saving. One could not be considered truly “prepared” without it.