How and What to Communicate in the Event of an Emergency

Sirens start going off, your cell phone isn’t working and the power has gone out. Your instincts start to kick into gear, and in your head you go through checklists of where certain people are located and realize that your daughter or son is across town at a family member’s house. How are you going to get a message to them?


Having a contingency crisis communication plan is important in the event of an emergency, whether you are a business or a family unit. Currently, we are spoiled by having instant communication access with our loved ones through texting, phone calls, email or social media. It doesn’t take a catastrophic event to shut down cell phone towers and telephone lines. Without power, communications can be completely shut down in a matter of minutes. Knowing what steps to make next will be critical for you and your family.

Emergency Action Plan (EAP)

In the event of a natural disaster, terrorist attack or nuclear war, your family members need to have a plan in place so that everyone knows what moves to make first. If you live in an area where natural disasters — such as earthquakes, tornadoes or hurricanes — occur, consider getting one of the Red Cross emergency apps that will give you alerts, updates, and the option to send a message to your listed loved ones if you are safe after one of these events occur. However, cell phones may not always work in the wake of a crisis.


One vital piece to add to your EAP is where is everyone expected to go. If your family members are widespread across an area, it might be wise to create caches equipped with a first-aid kit and a two-way radio with extra batteries. This way you can locate the closest cache to you and simply wait to hear from the others to move forward with your plan. If using the two-way radios, set four designated times of day (ex: 10am, noon, 2pm and 10pm) to check for communication to avoid wasting battery power. If members are able to, set a location where everyone will convene and a designated time after the event they should attempt to be there.

Ruined CityMaking a List, Checking it Twice

Having the ability to communicate with one another will be vital, but what is most important to communicate? If you are going to have a limited opportunity to do so due to limited battery supplies or any other reason, you need to make sure to get the most out of each conversation.


If cell towers and power are still up, you should limit non-emergency phone calls to avoid adding to the load on the system to make sure that your calls, and others’ calls, are getting through.

Utilize a last-minute packing list of high priority items that you and your companions are able to obtain to make sure you don’t leave anything behind that you might need. Your list should include first-aid kits, personal medications and a list of other emergency supplies.

Who’s on First?

Making sure that everyone knows their roles is an important thing to communicate in an emergency. Who is going to pick up the kids from school? Who is going to check on Grandma and make sure that she makes it to the rendezvous spot? Whatever your method of communication is, make sure that everyone in your party is accountable for another person, even the youngest in the group. You can create a family tree connecting everyone to make sure that each person has someone checking in on them and that they are checking in on another.

Checklist for Communication Cache Box:

  • First-aid kit
  • Two-way radio preset to channel of communication
  • Extra batteries
  • Flashlight
  • Family tree of communication
  • List of contacts and their required medications
  • Packing list of valuables
  • Location and time of rendezvous point
  • Local map
  • Morse code translator


Effective communication in the event of an emergency or natural disaster will help you and your family to quickly find one another and make an action plan moving forward. Starting to develop your plan now on how to effectively communicate and what is needed to be communicated will possibly save you from further chaos in the future.


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