5 Keys to Your Family’s Disaster Communication Plan

The ability to communicate with your friends, family, and loved ones anytime, anywhere is one of the most undervalued features of the modern world. When an emergency cuts off this ability, we can be caught off guard and out of the loop if we are unable to reach out to those we wish to contact.

There are a few things that can help us, if we should find ourselves in this disorienting situation.

1. Know your numbers: By having a cell phone programmed with names instead of dialing the actual phone numbers every time you call, many of us may find ourselves forgetting what our important phone numbers are. Take time to memorize them, or keep a "cheat sheet" someplace handy.

2. Have a place for notes: If the phones are out, have specific places at home and at work where you will post notes that provide information to others. You might not want them in a public place, as this could invite burglary during a crisis. For example, if you leave a note on your front door saying "Gone to the cabin," then looters will know the home is ripe for the picking.

3. Consider back-up communication devices: Walkie-talkies and CB radios can provide you and your group with some short-range communication. Also consider headphones or an earpiece on the walkies, so that you can keep things discreet.

4. Plan a distress signal: This would be something that only you and your people know about, which signals a problem among your group. This can include things like leaving the welcome sign hanging sideways outside the home, or having a code word you say to the group if you are alarmed or perceive a threat.

5. Have a communications hub: This is a person or place that acts as a hub for information. A relative who lives outside that disaster zone can relay info among those who are able to communicate with him. This could also be a place outside your community, where you can leave messages for each other.

Does your family have a communication plan if you can't reach out through phones? Please share your strategies in the comments.