Last Saturday, the church that I attend had a region wide emergency communication exercise. The goal of the exercise was to get church leaders to consider how they would contact people within a designated area as if in a power outage scenario. Leaders had between 9am to 11am to make face-to-face contact with about 200 households. They could not use telephones, cell phones, or any other type of instant messaging. If a family was not at home they would leave a flyer on the door step explaining the exercise.
I was one of the leaders that helped develop and carry-out the emergency communication plan. This is the first time I had been part of an emergency preparedness team. It was an enlightening experience. The first thing that left its mark on me was how vital a plan is. Everyone knew what to do and what was expected of them. It made the exercise easy to accomplish and enjoyable to participate in. All-in-all our team did well. We were able to contact just over half of the members of our congregation in the two hour time limit. We learned later that we had the highest percentage of contacts in the entire region. Knowing what we know now I would be very interested in running the exercise again to see if we could improve our results.
If you’d like to try this exercise out in your neighborhood below is the plan we came up with.
Emergency Communication Plan for a Designated Area:
#1 Gather the materials you will need.
A. Area map. You can generally find a plat map of your area by doing an internet search of your city/town plat maps (example: Idaho Falls Plat Maps). A link to a county map came up. Then by zooming in on a particular area I get the following image: B. Flyers that explain what you are doing. Below is an example of the flyers we left on doorsteps.
C. Decide on which Communication Devices your group will be using to coordinate with each other. We used Two-Way radios to communicate with each other. The radios had a range of about 1 mile in our area. We also have one person that is a licensed HAM operator to communicate with other leaders that our two-ways cannot reach. Below is a list of communication devices to consider (click on the pictures to see pricing). Which ever device you use, read the owner’s manual and the laws that regulate it.
- The most common is the Two-Way Radio. It is compact and easy to carry, affordable, easy to operate, and has a range up to 2 miles in the city. The Two-Way is also referred to as Walkie Talkies, Handhelds, FRS (Family Radio Station), or GMRS (General Mobile Radio Station). If your Two-Way has more than 7 channels then its likely that it uses GMRS frequencies. *It’s important to know: to operate GMRS frequencies you must have an FCC license. Below is a page out of my Two-Way Radio Owner’s Manuel. Every Two-Way is different so find out which channels are ok to use without a FCC license.
- HAM radios are used by government officials especially during emergencies and requires a Ham operating license. The license, Ham radio, antenna, and learning how to use it is an investment of time and money. The Bishop Storehouse has a Ham radio.
#2 Assign an Emergency Communication Specialist.
#3 Have a map of the designated area and assign one person living on each street to be a Block Captain. That person is responsible for contacting every house on their street. We had 18 Block Captains. Then we assigned 3 Area Leaders to notify Block Captains when to start contacting each house on their route and then later to collect the information they had gathered. The Area Leaders and the Communication Specialist had two-way radios to communicate so that the information could be gathered and reported quickly.
There are government resources for organized emergency preparedness groups: LDS Prepper Emergency Communication Exercise
Your group can obtain a GETS card. GETS stands for Government Emergency Telecommunications Service. The GETS card has an access number on it that allows your group “priority access over cellular communications networks“.
Your group can also get CERT certified. CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team. It is a training program by FEMA that teaches basic disaster response skills that allows you to work with local officials and assist your community in the event of a disaster.