Jun162009

7 Comments

When Communication = Survival

image by Angela

All it takes is one really good crisis and suddenly individuals are left without the means to call home and say, “I’m okay.”  Whether it’s a weather disaster, riots, a terrorist attack or a governmental crack-down, access to the internet, cell phone service, radio, and telephone landlines can be quickly and rather easily disrupted.

Here in America we’ve seen just how quickly a violent windstorm, forest fire, or hurricane can shut off our communication.  It’s vital to carefully consider how you would communicate to friends and relatives if your cell phone, land line, and internet connections no longer functioned, and, just as importantly, how you could receive vital information.

Other Forms of Communication

Check out some of these alternatives to cell phones and traditional land lines.

  • Do you have a solar/battery powered emergency radio?  If it can be powered up with a hand crank, so much the better.  Check out Weather Radio Store for this type of unit.
  • Two-way radios are an attractive option because of their low cost.  Some models even boast a 30 mile range.  In reality, even the highest quality radios will rarely have more than a two mile range.  However, these radios can come in handy when electricity is out because they operate on VHF and UHF signals, and if you live on a large homestead, these are hard to beat and require no expense to operate.
  • Breaker, breaker!  What’s yer 20?  It might sound like a really bad line in a country-western song, or a line in a bad country-western song, but a Citizens’ Band (CB) radio is a low-cost form of communication that is free to operate and doesn’t require a license.  Depending on your location, the range of a CB radio might be as much as ten to twenty miles.  Check out your local Craigslist or even Freecycle to find one in your price range.
  • Feeling hi-tech with your cool, trendy iPhone?  Did you know you can install an app on your iPhone or iPod Touch that will give you access to police, sheriff, Coast Guard, and fire department scanners?  Although this requires cell phone availability, you’ll be right on top of the latest developments in a crisis.
  • A satellite phone may be your best bet when you absolutely, positively have to get in touch with someone, and there’s no other way.  A ‘sat phone’ works everywhere, except indoors.  These babies sell for several hundred dollars each, but are often the only reliable communication in areas hit by an extensive disaster or in a region with virtually no phone coverage of any kind.
  • Homing pigeons.   I’m only partly joking!  Okay, okay, I thought this article needed a little humor.  But keep in mind that even though homing pigeons are the only form of communication that you have to feed and clean up after, they’re also impervious to electrical outages and even EMP blasts!  Someday you may thank me for this suggestion!
  • Very often, people outside your area will have more up-to-date knowledge of your situation than you will.  With a shortwave radio, you can reach thousands of shortwave radio stations around the world.  People operating these stations will likely have internet access even if you don’t.  Radio Shack has a rather dry but informative Q&A here.
  • People networks.  Just as many churches have “prayer chains”,  “information chains” can be organized among friends, relatives, and neighbors.  Choose an out-of-state individual who will serve as a contact point for everyone and keep track of timely, vital news so everyone stays informed.  There’s a service that provides something like this that you can read about at EverybodySafe.com.

In a crisis, just knowing that a loved one is safe is worth far more than a sat phone or iTouch.  Communication is one more area of preparedness where a little research, planning, and doing will help keep you sane in a crazy, out-of-control situation.

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

(7) Readers Comments

  1. I have heard that ham radio licenses may be pulled from availability in the near future because of the lack of waves out there not used by cellphones, etc. Our area offers ‘Ham in a Day’ class – it’s a day-long intensive program and you walk away with your Amateur radio license. WELL worth getting… if you want to know what’s happening, hams are going to be the key – your search & rescue, emergency response, and other teams all use them.

    • Anna,

      Thanks for your input and for visiting my blog! That is great info and a helpful heads-up re: ham radio licenses. I fear that we take our forms of communication too much for granted and don’t realize just how pivotal they are to our very survival. Readers, Google ‘Ham in a Day’ class, and see what there might be available in your area.

      Lisa

    • I was going to suggest the short wave remedy, but when I got down here, thankfully, Miss anna had stolen my thunder.

      Never heard of a "Ham in a Day" class, but when they have their National Field Days (when they all string together across the miles for fun) it is a pretty impressive event. You can walk in to just about any one of their events (sometimes at EMT stations?) and they will talk your ears off (!) and answer anything you want to know. That is the POINT of National Field Day.

      This is where I would start a search for a local "sandwiched" Ham class

  2. Pigeon is a fine meal.

    Because while they may call them "Ham", radios don't taste so good.

    • You're right. Carrier pigeons serve a dual purpose. LOL

  3. Foxhole radio …..:o)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skKmwT0EccE

    Easy to make from stuff in your home .

  4. Your picture above shows an EXCELLENT choice of radio, but your message parrots what the authorities want you to do: have a radio that only receives filtered news from the authorities.

    The Kenwood radio above is easily charged from car or solar cells on my backpack, or my spare motorcycle battery. It receives AM, FM, and Weather Band, but it is also good for line-of-sight two way communication. Best of all, it can scan police calls. (I have a newer version of that radio) That is what the authorities don’t want you to have! When the Rodney King riots of 1992 hit Los Angeles there were a lot of dangerous places that the news media and “public services” did not tell us about. But scanning the police frequencies gave us the ugly truth, in one case allowing me to avoid a place where there was an ongoing gunfight. Keep in mind that in a real disaster situation, 911 will not be worth a damn; the emergency services will be overwhelmed and unavailable. You will be on your own.

    Keep in mind that civil authorities can outlaw ham radio, as they did in 1941. But if you limit the radio to receive only, they will never know you are listening.

    It is very useful to be able to send text messages. To do this, you best learn morse code with your family and learn the rudiments of cryptography. If messages are very short, a simple crypto system can be effective. With morris code you can send messages by flashlight, sound, flag waving, radio, tapping on the wall of your prison cell, and other means. (for tapping, you can not make dots and dashes; you must add an extra tap at the end of each character) You should pre-arrange a message posting location with family members in case you are separated. Since everybody in the world will see the message, be sure to have a pre-arranged crypto method. In WW II, John Kennedy used a cypher called “Playfair”. It is uncrackable if the message is less than 40 characters. It is easily crackable if the message is long. Your pre-arranged crypto system should include a “validation code” to indicate that it is genuinely from the indicated signer and not being sent or posted under duress.

    LEARN THE CODE!!!

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