One-Way Emergency Communications

One Way Emergency Comm HeaderThe ability to communicate in an emergency is paramount.

Picture in your mind what you would be thinking if a personal crisis were to occur such as a fire, a car accident, or a health emergency.

Now picture in your mind how you would react if suddenly a regional disaster took place such as a large earthquake, a terrorist attack, or a nuclear plant meltdown.

What would you do?

Would you want to know what happened?

Would you feel the need to find out more information?

Would you be concerned to learn of the scale and scope of the emergency?

Would you want to discover what options you would have available?

Most importantly, wouldn’t you want to know if the persons who matter most to you were ok? Or for that matter, for them to know that you’re ok?

And what if you (or the people you care about) were not?!!!

This should all illustrate the need for emergency communications.

If you don’t have one already, you should make an emergency communications plan. This would give you something to follow if and when you would need to communicate in any emergency.

There should be two main goals in mind when you prepare for emergency communications. One is to have at least one method to receive critical information. The other is to have the ability to communicate back and forth with those you would need to reach.

This week, some of the more common methods of “one-way” communications will be presented, as well as the pros and cons of each. (Next week, forms of two-way communications will be featured. So any methods that fall into that category, such as phones, two-way radios, the internet, etc. will be discussed then. However, of course, many forms of two-way communications can be used for the purpose of receiving information just as well, if not better in some cases, than the forms of one-way communications that will be featured here.)

In the table below, the following methods are compared: AM/FM radios, weather radios, satellite radios, television, scanners, and shortwave radios.

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Grundig Radio
There are many options available on the market that can receive more than one type of transmission. An example is this compact Grundig radio which can receive AM/FM and shortwave broadcasts.

As the table illustrates, you can see that there are several different options available to receive one-way communications. Which methods you choose should be based upon your unique circumstances. For example, although every household should have an emergency radio, (see Do you have a “blackout box”?,) you may feel that you would not want to invest in a scanner. Keep in mind, however, that the more options you have available to you, the more sources of information you would be able to receive. Also be mindful that some methods, such as conventional radio and television, are heavily dependent on civil infrastructures…so if a disaster affected the power, transmission lines, etc. that surrounded your area, (or if it affected the area from where the transmissions would originate,) communications may be disrupted.  This should also illustrate why it is a good idea to have more than one means of receiving information. It also shows the importance of choosing devices which can run on alternative means of power such as batteries, solar, or hand crank. Another factor to consider is portability. If one were at home, “bugging in,” or sheltering in place, this would not be so much of a concern. However, if you needed to evacuate, the size and weight of whatever you would be carrying would become an issue, so I recommend having at least one device small enough that you would feel comfortable taking along.

In summary, here are some basic recommendations for preparing for one-way emergency communications:

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It is best to be able to receive different sources of communications. By doing this, you would increase your chances of getting the critical information you would need in an emergency.
  • Have at least one emergency radio for your home. It should be able to run on some form of alternative power such as batteries, solar, or hand crank.
  • The more sources of information you can receive, the better. If you were to choose just one radio, pick one that has multiple functions. For example, there are radios which can receive both AM/FM and weather frequencies. Other AM/FM radios can also receive shortwave. Honestly, it would be best to have multiple devices. That way, if one broke, you would still have the means to obtain information.
  • Have the means to receive both local and long-distance signals. This would keep you informed on both levels if a large-scale type of disaster were to ever occur. Satellite radios and shortwave radios would be good for this purpose. (However, my personal favorite device for this is HF amateur radio, which will be discussed with two-way communications next week.)

In any case, your preparations for any emergency would be incomplete until you plan on some way to receive critical information. In addition to the technological methods above, don’t forget to consider  printed resources to gain details and facts as well.  However, even though all this will help you receive information, you will also most likely need to contact others. You will need to prepare for some method of two-way communications, and that topic will be explored similarly next week.

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