Communication During a Natural Disaster

What do you believe is a fatal flaw when preparing for emergencies? It isn’t having enough canned food. It isn’t even having enough water. It’s actually the lack of communication.

Communication is critical to everyone’s safety and survival before, during and after a natural disaster. Poor communication, and the lack of, is to blame for a large portion of the failure for officials to respond during Hurricane Katrina.

Do you have a solid communications plan in place as part of your household emergency plan? Can everyone in your household answer these questions?

Photo of the destruction from a tornado in Van, Texas.

Are you prepared for a natural disaster? September is National Preparedness Month.

  • Where will everyone be?
  • Where will you go?
  • How will you get there?
  • How will you communicate information?

Developing a communication plan is one of your first and foremost priorities when creating your emergency preparedness plan. This communication plan should include everyone in your immediate family, family who doesn’t live with you, neighbors and others you care about.

What is included in an emergency communication plan?

Your communication plan includes establishing a main point of contact, alerting everyone in your family of what to do and where to meet during an emergency, as well as letting others know you are okay.

10 Crisis Communication Plans

  1. Establish a lead communicator. This is the member of the family that will text, call or email instructions.
  2. Have an out of town point of contact.
  3. Create a group chat with every member of your family and those who are a part of your disaster emergency plan.
  4. Write down the contact information of everyone in your group and have them all keep paper copies in their wallet, purse or backpack.
  5. Discuss the disaster readiness plan at your children’s school or daycare and with all other caregivers.
  6. Establish where everyone will meet during an emergency. Depending on the disaster, you might not be able to communicate via phone at all. Make sure everyone knows exactly where to meet.
  • A safe room in the house
  • Somewhere outside the house, but close, in case of fire
  • Somewhere local like a shelter, community center, church, library or family/friend’s house and somewhere outside your city if you must evacuate. Define everyone’s roles and responsibilities. For example, older kids will pick up the younger kids, whoever is closest to the house will grab the survival kit, etc.
  1. Get back in the habit of memorizing phone numbers.
  2. Put someone’s phone number as an emergency contact in everyone’s phone under the name “ICE” (In Case of Emergency.)
  3. Establish a landline in your home and buy a phone with a cord on it!

FEMA has an excellent detailed checklist of how to create your emergency communications plan. You can download it for free

  • Send short texts instead of making a phone call. Texts are less likely to clog up the network and more likely to go through than a phone call. Severe storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides and other natural disasters can cause power to go out, making it very difficult to communicate by cell phone. This is where meeting places and phone number memorization becomes very important.
  • Stress the importance of conserving the phone’s battery. Turn off the WiFi, reduce the screen brightness, and close or delete uncritical apps.
  • Use social media to communicate. Facebook has an option to “mark yourself safe” during local disasters.

After having a family meeting detailing your communication plan, it’s time to practice! Run through every one of your plans at least once a year.

The Importance of Sharing Your Knowledge

46% of Americans FEMA surveyed in 2014 say they have no preparedness plans.

National Preparedness Month 2018 black and green logo that says, "Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How."Preparedness is a community effort between individual citizens, the government and non-profit organizations. There are plenty of free resources that help Americans prepare for emergencies, but without the correct way of disseminating information on what to prepare for and how to prepare for it, this effort has failed. You can play a positive role in community preparedness by talking to your neighbors, coworkers and friends about being ready for a disaster.

FEMA says talking about preparedness has a direct influence on how people plan for a disaster. The agency finds “…having the opportunity to discuss preparedness to be crucial.”  We must all work together to prepare for, survive and recover from disaster.

Since 2004, September has been National Preparedness Month. Let’s start a conversation. What types of disasters are you prepared for and what preparations have you taken? Share your tips with others in the comment section.

To learn more about survival and emergency preparedness, see the following articles:

Your Pandemic Preparedness Checklist

Essential Survival Skills

How Do You Prepare for a Hurricane?

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