Communication During a Disaster

 Communication During a Disaster

You must make sure that you have a plan in place for communication during a disaster.

During and following a disaster can be hard for anybody. It becomes even worse if you do not prepare now for how you are going to communicate with your loved ones.

Power outages will mean you can’t use your usual means of communication. Chances are cellular services will become overwhelmed meaning your cell phone can also not be used.

So how will you communicate with your loved ones or other members if your group? Check out our tips below for some ideas.

Why You Need More Than Just Your Cell Phone

There’s no question that cell phones have become essential to our daily lives and that’s especially true in a disaster.

You will often see preparedness websites saying that you need more methods of communication during a disaster but have you ever stopped to think why?

If you have failed to secure alternate means of communication you need to start now.

Why might you not be able to rely on your cellphone during a disaster?

  • Towers might be down – depending on the situation the cell phone towers might be down. This is especially true during ice storms when the weight of the ice has caused extensive damage.
  • Overloaded – during a disaster everybody takes to their cell phones to try to call in or out for help. This can overload the networks making you unable to get through. This happened during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
  • Top priority for first responders – during a disaster first responders may have priority. There is a mechanism that is put in place so that with a code, first responders can get top priority for cell phone usage.
  • Dead battery – An obvious reason for not being able to use your cell phone is a dead battery and if there is no power in the area, it can’t be recharged.

Create your Communications Plan

The very first thing that you need to do is create a communications plan. Ensure that all members of your family or group understand it well. So what needs to be detailed in your communications plan? Let’s take a look:

  • You need to decide on two different meeting places. You need to decide on one local meeting place and one that is out-of-town.
  • How you will contact each other.
  • Designate an out-of-town contact.

Emergency Contacts

Start off by compiling a list of all emergency contacts for easy reference should they be needed during a disaster. Emergency contacts that should make the list include:

  1. Local police and fire departments.
  2. Gas, water, and electricity suppliers.
  3. If you have children, make sure to include their school phone numbers.
  4. Insurance company.
  5. Your family and friends.

You should choose one person that every family member or group member should use as the main contact. This person will act as the central hub of information.


You have a few options that you can use for communicating during and after a disaster and each have their own pros and cons.

Amateur radios (Ham) are good options although you do need a license to use them, CB radios are OK but fewer people are using these today. Two-way radios (walkie talkies) are also OK though are limited in range and will usually be affected by such things as hills and trees. If only being used over short distances, each family member can have one and you do not need any kind of license. The problem with walkie-talkies is that others could also listen in to your plans.

Satellite phones are like cell phones except that they use satellites rather that cell towers and don’t work too well indoors.

If planned beforehand, you can choose a place where you can leave notes hidden to let other members of the group know of your safety and your next moves. Other options if still running include:

  • Cell and landline phones
  • Emails
  • Social media.

If you are trying to communicate to others because you are in need of help, fire and smoke may be your better option if none of the above are an option. Over a distance you can use different colour smoke as signals to the rest if your group (obviously make sure you all know what each colour represents).

Mirrors can be used for signalling although are effectively useless at night. Chalking works well and can be removed easily after. This can be used instead of leaving notes hidden with the rule that once your group member reads it, they clean it off after so that your plans do not get compromised.

Remember, following a disaster, it may not be as easy as picking up your phone and calling somebody so the more options that you have, the better chance of survival.

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1 Comment

  • You can send messages by flashing a mirror (or use two mirrors if the sun is behind you) or a piece of glass or even aluminum foil to reflect sunlight to someone in the distance, even miles away as long as they can see the flashes. Or flash a light at night. Or tap on a wall or even blink, any countable signals.
    If you don’t have hours to spend to learn Morse Code for sending, or you can’t convince your family to do so, there’s an easier (but slower) code called Tap Code, which you can learn in a minute or two, as many soldiers have.
    To send the letter of a word, first tap (or flash) through the letters A F L Q V, stopping at the one which is before the letter you want to send (or the same as it), then pause, then tap through the alphabet from that point. For example, to send the word “HELP”, you tap twice (A F), pause, tap three times (F G H) and the receiver writes down the H. Then you tap once (A), pause, then tap five times ( A B C D E) and he writes down the E. Then you tap three times (A F L), pause, and tap once (L) and he writes down the L. Finally you tap three times (A F L), pause, and tap five times (L M N O P) and he writes down the P. You can use X for a period and Q for a question mark. Use the letter C instead of K: asc.
    If you make a mistake and need to start a word over, tap eight times. Sometimes people have even blinked secret messages in Tap Code! It’s also called AFLQV code. I call it Affle-quiv code.

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