Planning to Regroup

One aspect of your preparedness planning that is often overlooked is giving thought to the fact that family members may be separated when disaster hits. Sure, it’d be nice if everyone were safe at home when it happens but odds are that won’t be the case. Kids may be at school, adults may be at work. Some may be out shopping, at the movies, out to eat, or Lord only knows where if teenagers are involved. With that in mind, there should be a plan in place for regrouping.

One part of this plan should address emergency communications. Depending upon the nature of the emergency, calling everyone’s cell phone might not be feasible. Phone lines often become overwhelmed during a crisis. However, text messages may still get through as they run on a different system. Create some sort of code word or phrase that, if received, indicates they should head for home immediately. It needs to be stressed that the only time this code phrase is used is in a true emergency. Also, there can be absolutely no mistaking the importance of receiving the message and acting upon it immediately. If your son receives a text from you that says, “Code Red,” he is to drop whatever he is doing and head for home using the fastest route possible.

But, what if the nature of the emergency prevents an easy travel back home? What if, for example, there is massive storm damage between your son and home? If he’s unable to safely travel home, he should seek other shelter and hunker down. If at all possible, he should contact those at home to let them know, whether via phone call or text. Ideally, he’ll transmit his location and that he is ok.

Children who are too young to travel home themselves will need to be picked up. A plan needs to be devised to lay out who is picking up the children and, if it is from school, that person should be noted in the school file as an authorized pick up person. Schools are, rightfully so, rather insistent upon this.

On top of all of this, there should be one more plan – what if home isn’t safe? What if, instead of having everyone meet at the residence you need for them to meet elsewhere? Choose an alternate location, someplace that is relatively nearby but not immediately next door. Say, a park in the neighborhood, for example. If this is the message received, “Code Red, Location B,” they know to head to the park and meet up there. The idea here is to give yourself options, which is what prepping is all about. I’m not suggesting you have 87 different locations, each with a different code phrase. We’re not talking 007 stuff here. The point is to have an alternate meet up location, just in case.

Give serious thought as to where your family members may be if disaster hits. Make a plan to allow for fast regrouping, should the need arise.

Pros and Cons of Two-Way Radios

Two-way radios, the modern version of the walkie-talkies many of us had as kids, can be a great tool for emergency communication among family members. Provided, though, that you understand their limitations. Bear in mind, we’re not talking about amateur (ham) radio. That’s a whole different ballgame.

These radios all use the same group of frequencies. On the plus side, this means you can easily program several radios to communicate together, even radios from different manufacturers. However, this also means that anyone else can listen in to your conversations if they hit upon the same frequency. Your safest bet when using these radios is to avoid talking about any confidential information on the air.

Manufacturers like to make rather exaggerated claims regarding the range of these radios. You’ll see packages that say, “up to 25 miles” and other such nonsense. Yes, the radio might truly transmit that far…if there is absolutely nothing between the sender and receiver. The problem is that things like buildings and trees easily block the radios or at least inhibit transmission. Realistically, if you can get a mile or two of range from the average two-way radio, you’re doing pretty darn well. However, that also means that anyone who wishes to listen in to your conversation must also be in that range. Which, actually, might not be a good thing when you think about it.

Many models of these radios take the rather common AA or AAA batteries. That makes life a little easier as you won’t have to hunt down some obscure size. However, by their very nature, batteries go dead after a while. If you plan on relying on radios like these, better plan ahead and add a solar battery charger to your preps.

No satellites or towers are used
Unlike cell phones, for example, two way radios are sort of a closed system. The transmission is sent out directly to the receiver, rather than bounced off of a tower or satellite. This means that even if the entire electrical grid is down, the radios will still work (provided they weren’t impacted by the event that took down the grid, such as an EMP strike). There really isn’t a downside to this, other than the lack of towers and such helps to limit the effective range.

Two-way radios are a fun way to stay in touch when you’re out and about with your family. When times are normal, they can help keep you from chewing up minutes on your cell phone. But, if you plan on using them after a major disaster, it is important to understand they are not always what they are cracked up to be.