Remember the days before cell phones, when we actually had to remember everyones phone number or write it down in a little address book? We should think about doing something like that these days, even though we have cell phones. Pop Quiz: What your daughter’s cell phone number? Your neighbor’s? Your father’s? Think about it for a moment, what happens when a big emergency or disaster happens? Cell phone usage goes up, everyone is trying to get in touch with one another, batteries get used more quickly and some people will be left with a dead battery or no cell connection when they need it most. Could that be you? Have you memorized all of the important numbers you may need to dial if you couldn’t use your cell phone’s address book? So how will you be able to get in touch with your loved ones? Well, if you write down a few key pieces of information which are described below it won’t be a problem for you or your family!
Having a family communication plan is simple and easy and doesn’t take much time at all to develop. Consider writing down all of your immediate family member’s cell numbers as well as close friends, neighbors, day care providers, schools, places of employment, etc. Put those numbers on a piece of paper and shrink it down to about the size of a business card (shrink the font down if needed too) and get them laminated for each member to carry in their wallet or purse. You may need to double it over so the printing is on both sides. Also designate three rally points/times in case you can’t get in touch via telephone. One rally point close to the house in case of a fire or gas leak or other emergency that requires evacuation of the home. The time for this rally point would be as soon as possible after the emergency. The second rally point should be further from the home but within a 15 to 20 minute walking distance. The time for this rally point could be every hour on the top of the hour or on top of the hour on even numbered hours, etc. This point is used in case several blocks are evacuated due to a large gas leak, chemical spill, tornado, etc. Consider a police station, post office or grocery store, or gas station. It could be any place that is open 24 hours and will allow you to get out of the weather at least temporarily. Just ensure that even younger family members know how to walk to this location just incase you are accidentally separated. The third rally point should be within a one hour driving distance from your home (far enough to be outside the city, but close enough to walk or bicycle if you had to do so, if the roads were too congested to drive). This location should preferably be upwind or cross wind from the direction of the prevailing winds for your area if possible. The time for this rally point could be daily at noon or on the 6s and 12s etc. This rally point is in case there is a very significant threat or emergency where the whole city is evacuated. Again a place that is open 24 hours a day that will allow you to get out of the weather is preferred. All rally point times are basically just repeated until contact is made, either in person or via phone or other method discussed below. If you are worried about the possibility of an even larger disaster / pandemic / etc (which is unlikely in my humble opinion) then you could also establish a rally point in another region of the US or even in another country, with a monthly, weekly or yearly rally time.
Because cell phone service during times of emergency are unreliable at best consider adding a few communication alternatives to your plan as well. One being prepaid phone cards, give each person a $10-$20 dollar prepaid phone card and have them carry it with the laminated family communication card. Believe it or not pay phones do still exist and when you start looking for them are more available that you might remember. You could also put the name or address of each rally point on the family communication card as well. Be sure that everyone knows how to use the prepaid phone card and how to use a pay phone. You may be surprised to know that many teenagers have never actually used one… Although not as common as they used to be pay phones are still out there. It may also be worth while to ensure the location of your rally point actually has a pay phone and get the numbers for those phones and include them in your family communication plan as well. Also consider including a prearranged signal at the rally point incase you miss one another. For example just write your name and the time and date you were at the pay phone inside the phone book chined to the pay phone, or just inside the pay phone walls in a discreet location. Additionally, consider using SMS Text messaging and or setting up a VOIP account (like Skype) or an internet SMS texting number and obviously email as well. Internet service is usually more reliable than cell service during emergencies and if you can get to a WI-FI hotspot or have data coverage only on your cell phone you could get a message out over the internet, even when you couldn’t successfully place a call on the cell. Also having a Citizens Band (CB) Radio or even a FRS/GRS handheld walkie talkie is also a good option to keep in all of your family vehicles, 72 Hour Bags, Get Home Bags, Bug Out Bags, etc. The distance on radios isn’t as good as a phone, but is better than nothing. Make sure to designate the proper channel to use and the times that calls should be made out. For example, every hour on top of the hour until contact is made. That way each party knows when to call and when to listen for the call.
Also consider establishing a family duress word. This is a pre-established word that can be used to in person or on the phone or internet to convey that the person using the word is in trouble and can’t speak freely and/or is under duress or being held against their will, etc. An example of a duress word might be “JoJo” and to use the word the person under duress would simply use “JoJo” in a sentence. For example: “Tell Grandpa JoJo, I love him and will see him soon”. But “Grandpa JoJo” is deceased or there is no Grandpa JoJo all together. You could also use your cat’s name, etc. It could be anything as long as it is a word or name that you wouldn’t normally use in regular conversation. Then just teach the family members to insert that name or word into a conversation. That would then alert you to the possibility that they were being held against their will or under duress of some kind.
Vehicle license plate numbers should also be included in your Family Communication Plan incase you need to give a report to the authorities incase they are missing.
You may also want to consider putting the home and cell phone numbers of some of your extended family members on the card as well. Especially those persons you may stay with if your home is not in a livable condition or your area of the city has been evacuated.
For more information on family disaster planning consider taking a look at the book called “Its a Disaster”, which is located on my Survival Resources page at: http://www.realitysurvival.com/survival-resources/
Below is some of the information you may want to consider including on your family communication plan:
Spouse Cell Number:
Spouse Work Number:
Spouse Vehicle License Plate Number:
Son Cell Phone Number:
Son Vehicle License Plate Number:
Daughter Cell Number:
Daughter Vehicle License Plate Number:
Close Friends Home Numbers:
Close Friends Cell Numbers:
Extended Family Home Numbers:
Extended Family Cell Numbers:
Rally Point addresses: 1,2,3,4
Rally Point Pay Phone Numbers:
Rally Point Times:
CB and or FRS/GRS Walkie Talkie Channels:
Radio Call Times:
Rally Point Communication Signal Location:
Family Duress Word Hint: