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Quick Tips to Jumpstart Your Backup Communication Plan

By MR. MONTE NACE, Staff Writer

Every family needs an emergency communication plan in case a natural or man-made disaster strikes. According to www.ready.gov, creating yours starts with a few simple questions:

What if something happens and I am not with my loved ones? How will I know they are safe? Will I be able to reach them? How can I let them know I’m OK?

During a disaster, the communication networks we rely on daily for cell phones and computers may not work. Electricity may also be out, leaving you unable to recharge electronic devices. What then?

Planning for such circumstances is particularly important if you have children or family members with disabilities or special needs. Ready.gov recommends starting with three easy steps, which I embellished with a few additional suggestions.

1. COLLECT phone numbers and email addresses for family members and other important contacts, such as hospitals, doctors, schools, or service providers. A written copy is vital if you are without your device. Include someone outside your community or state who can act as a central point of contact for your household in case you and other family members are not together when the event occurs. On each device, store at least one contact under the name “In Case of Emergency” or “ICE” This allows someone to quickly figure out the proper person to contact.

2. SHARE a hard copy with everyone who may need it in a “What if …” scenario—particularly those in your home. Keep the information current and easily accessible, such as in a backpack, wallet, or handbag. If you complete your Family Emergency Communication Plan at www.ready.gov/make-a-plan, you can print it onto a wallet-sized card. You should also post a copy at home on your refrigerator or family bulletin board, and memorize phone numbers if possible.

3. PRACTICE how you will implement your plan. Involve children in the exercise, instructing them that text messages may get through when cell phone calls do not because a text uses less bandwidth. Disaster drill discussions should include suggested message content, such as “I am okay. I am at school.” Instruct children without cell phones to follow instructions from a responsible adult, such as a teacher, principal, or emergency responder. Based on practice session results, revise your plan as needed. Ensure children know how and when to call 911 if needed. Finally, teach them to adjust their device’s screen brightness and close unnecessary apps to conserve battery life temporarily.

None of us wants to be involved in a disaster, but it happens somewhere every day. In a world where we rely so heavily on technology, make sure you and your loved ones are prepared to stay in touch—just in case.

If you complete your Family Emergency Communication Plan at www.ready.gov/make-a-plan, you can print it onto a wallet-sized card.