(If you wish to scroll down directly to the worksheets, feel free to do so.)
Do you have an emergency communications plan in place?
If not, I highly suggest you make it a priority to create one.
If you already have one, I applaud you. However, it is always wise to give your plans a second look…just to be sure they are adequate for any emergency.
In any case, there are several things that any emergency communications plan should account for:
- What kind of emergency? — Is the emergency a personal or family one? Or does it affect your whole neighborhood such as a power outage, a lock-down, or a storm-related event such as a tornado? Perhaps the emergency involved is a much larger one such as a hurricane, an extensive flood, or other disastrous event which could affect a region as large as a state or a province? At the very worst, what if the emergency was widespread such as a war or a solar-caused EMP? You need to define the parameters of the emergency first before you can make an effective plan since every level of emergency determines a different type of response.
- Who would you need to contact? — For every level of emergency, who would you need to contact? A personal emergency may just require a phone call or two, but for a larger emergency, you may need an out-of-the-region contact for others to get in touch with to learn of your status. Also, this contact list will be different for every person. For example, you may feel the need to contact doctors, employers, clergy, service professionals, etc. while others may only wish to contact a few. Overall, it is largely up to your discretion on who should be on your lists.
- When should you attempt contact with the above individuals? — So you just made a plan on who you will need to contact, but do they know the plan? When do you plan on contacting everyone on your lists? Of course, the answer will depend on the priority of each person. Some you will need to contact immediately. Others you may choose to contact after the dust settles a little. For every case, you should include when to contact that person as a part of your plan. Should you plan on contacting that person every hour on the hour? How about an exact time during the day? Maybe you only need to check in on a certain day of the week? The answer will be different for everyone, but in order to increase your chances of contact, you will all need to agree on when the contact should be attempted. This is especially important in larger emergencies.
- How long will be the probable duration of your communication? –Some people you will need to speak to longer than others. This should be accounted for in your plan.
- How frequently should you contact each other? –This obviously goes along with the two previous questions, but if it wasn’t addressed already, make sure to consider this when creating your emergency communications plan.
- What distance will likely be covered for each contact? –Don’t overlook this detail. The distance will often determine which communication methods would be possible in an emergency. For example, in personal emergencies, cell phones would normally do the job. However, in a regional or widespread emergency, you may need other forms of two-way communications in order to make contact. Some forms work better than others, and some will not independently transmit longer distances without being dependent on infrastructure. If you wish to be truly prepared, you need to account for this if you need to make long-distance contacts.
- What methods of contact do you plan to use? –This is a very important part of your plan. Each level of emergency will likely require different modes of communication. In addition, the answers to all the questions above will also further serve to narrow your choices on how you will try to communicate. Again, the answer will be different for each of your contacts. For example, you may plan on calling some people. But what if the cell towers in a given area were damaged? You may have ham radio as a back-up plan, but what if the other person does not share this skill? Also, do your plans include the need for emergency power? You will need to consider each contact separately when you make your plans as each will have their own specific needs. Also, it is very important that you have at least two back-up contact methods as a part of your overall plan for each person. It is all about being prepared for the unexpected.
As you answer each of these questions, you will be well on your way to creating an effective emergency communications plan. Remember to make plans to cover a wide range of emergencies. Also, there are three more points to make about an emergency communications plan:
This plan should not just be an “Important Numbers” list. (If your plan includes nothing more than a list of who you wish to contact, it is not a thorough plan. This plan must include the “when” and “how” in order to be a good, working communications plan. Plus, the other parties must also be aware of this plan for it to be effective.)
Again, are the people mentioned in your plan aware of your plan? (Your best plans may fail if they have no idea about what you had planned in the first place.)
Have you practiced your plan? (Emergency communications is a skill. It must be practiced if it is to be depended upon in real emergencies. This is an absolute must!)
This may all sound overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Included here are a couple of worksheets that can help you to get started:
The first form is titled “Emergency Communications Plan Worksheet.” It serves as a rough draft to answer the questions posed above. Filling out this form will help you to formulate your overall plan. You may need to print out more than one form if you need to make more than six planned contacts.
This second form may be used to fill out your written emergency communications plan for the different levels of emergencies. Just as it is the case with the other form, you may need to print out more depending on how many you may need to contact for every level of emergency.
Remember, the work of writing up your plan is just the beginning. Your plan must be regularly practiced and analyzed if it is to be truly useful and effective in a real emergency.