Friday, July 4, 2014

Getting Prepared for Beginners #11 Travel and Communication

Before we get started I really hope you are enjoying and learning from this series. I hope at the very least it has gotten you started thinking about being more prepared for the things that we are most likely to face. I always appreciate your feedback.

In this edition we will be covering travel and communication. So, something has happened. A tornado, flood, wildfire, hurricane, earthquake, or something. Something that given a little time things will get back to normal. You are alive and hopefully uninjured. You have your basic supplies ready. Now what?

Once something has happened or even started to happen a decision must be made. Are you going to shelter in place or evacuate? In most situations nearly all of us would prefer to shelter in place, but there are times that this is just not an option.


The reasons a person might want or even be required to evacuate ttheir homes are many and vary in severity. You could be required to evacuate your home because of a gas line leak, a semi truck wreck that is now spilling chemicals, plus all of the natural disasters that we have talked about. With so many reasons that could happen it is best to have a plan.

If you will look at the examples I have given you will see that zombies are not listed. These are things that happen somewhere everyday. If you have to flee your home, know in advance where you would go. Depending on the situation you might want to simply go to a hotel or spend time with family until the event is over. No matter what your choice,  everyone in the family needs to know what your plans would be. Directions and meeting places should always be understood.

We have a great example of the need for planned meeting places. If something were to occur we would most likely go to either my dad's or my wife's aunt's. Two different directions entirely. It needs to be understood by everyone where we will be going. It would not be good for my wife and I to go one way and our children to go another.

Even if we are all headed to the same location odds are high that we may be at different locations when such an event occurs. If my wife and I are both at work and the children are at school each of us will have to take a different path. From my work to my dad's is 22 miles. From the kids school it is 34 miles to my dad's. My wife's work is 43 miles from my dad's. If something were to happen we would all be traveling different paths to reach the same destination. At some point along the way we have a meeting place. This keeps us from going the entire way and then having to turn back in search of a member of our family.

Note: While writing this I realized an area in which I have fallen short on our  evacuation plan. Each vehicle should have maps with clear directions from all of the various places that person might be and have meeting places clearly marked. I will be fixing this for us this weekend.


Communication will be critical to ensure that every member of your family arrives safely at the same place. Problem is when you are desperately trying to get in touch with your loved ones so is everyone else in your area. This massive increase of traffic will quickly overwhelm communication lines.

This problem is not new. I remember the recorded message on the telephone "We're sorry all circuits are busy now.Please try your call again later". The same situation occurs now with our cellular phones.
There are several ways that you can try to stay in touch with family members. I am going to cover a few with the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Ham radio: Ham radio can have incredible range. It does not have to have a high cost of access is you are handy with electronics, but if you are not it can get a little pricey and quick.

Benefits: DC powered units are the norm so if the power goes out you are still able to communicate. Excellent long range capability, this means you can get news about what is going on from outside your general area.

Drawbacks: Unless in a real emergency you must have an FCC license to operate a ham radio. The units that have long range ability are not very portable. The portable units cannot pull long range.

CB Radio: also called citizen band. CB is not regulated so anyone can use it.

Benefits: Very portable. Low cost of entry. No need for large antenna. No need for license. Very easy to use.

Drawbacks: No privacy (there is little way to avoid someone listening in on conversations). Short range two miles is a really good reach. Some channels can be very congested.

Two Way Radios: You know the ones, they look like small walkie talkies and claim a range "up to 42 miles".

Benefits: small and very portable. If you get the rechargeable ones and you have an inverter you have unlimited power. Decent range of up to about 5 miles depending on terrain. Due to the fact that these have several channels and each channel has sub frequencies you can be fairly sure to have  a good level of privacy. I love these for hunting or large events where people could get separated. In fact the set above is on my want really bad list.

Drawbacks: not a long enough range for all of our needs. If someone has a scanner they might be able to listen into your conversation. Really that is about all I have negative to say about these radios.

All of the devices I mentioned above are backup systems. For most people the primary source of communication is their cellular or mobile phone. In our family we are no different. We did away with a land-line telephone long ago. But as I said before, just when communication is needed most is when everyone else is trying to get in touch with someone too. How do you use a cell phone to maximize the probability of keeping up with your family?

We have already covered how the circuits can get so jammed with traffic that getting a call through to someone is just a shot in the dark. I have heard that the cell service was locked up in a town after a major sporting event, just imagine how much more the call traffic would be in the event of a major storm.

Text Message: Everyone seems to be texting now a days. There is even a whole new language that has been developed by texters. But the truth is sending a text message takes up a lot less bandwidth than a call. Based on my research it takes 290 text messages to equal a 1 minute call. That dramatically increases the likelihood that your message will go through.

Email: An email takes up a little more bandwidth than a text message, but it has one major advantage. Any email that is composed goes into the outbox folder and just sits there until there is enough bandwidth available to transmit. This is a way to insure that your message gets sent. It may take some time, but your family will receive the information.

My List: Call first. If I am unable to get a call through after a couple of tries then text. If text fails a couple of times then email and wait 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes have passed, check to make sure the email has been moved to the sent folder. If the email is in the sent folder your family member will receive it when they have enough bandwidth to receive.

Like I said I really want the two way radios, but they are really more for communication within the less than 5 mile range. Have a predetermined channel and sub channel that your family will use. Actually have at least 3 and make sure you family knows what order to tune in which channel. Once you know your family is on the way you can keep checking with the two way so you know when they are close. 

I hope this has gotten you thinking about what you would do in the event that you couldn't go home. If you will start working on a plan with your family you will be helping to insure that all of the members of your family are safe and make it to where you are. I want you all to be able to realize your

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