If you ask a person who has gone through a natural disaster, you will discover how difficult it is to establish communication immediately afterwards. In general, there is no electricity and fixed line communications are interrupted due to the loss of the tower and other technical difficulties. While we live in an extremely technological era, an alternative communication system during a disaster is an absolute necessity at those times. Rescue teams use these systems to get in touch with people who have been isolated and families can find out about their loved ones.
Sometimes, several disasters occur at the same time or in a small time difference, as happened in Virginia in 2011. The people living here had to endure destructive tornadoes, Tropical Storm Lee, Hurricane Irene and a magnitude 5 earthquake, 8 Certainly, it seemed that God had a problem with that particular place on Earth and the people who were there know that in the minutes and days after everything calmed down it was very difficult to communicate with the authorities or call their emergency number. region.
We are used to being able to communicate at each given moment, with people living thousands of kilometers away from our location, so the need for an alternative communication system during a disaster may seem outdated and unnecessary. We often forget that our communication technology works with energy and needs signal towers to reach the receiving device.
Communication is very important in our daily life, but it becomes crucial during and after a disaster. People should inform their loved ones that they are safe and that all members of their family are also safe. In addition, there are situations in which family members separate.
We all have to admit that earthquakes, storms, tornadoes, and all other natural disasters are alarming and very impressive. The unleashed fury of mother nature makes people freak out and lose their temper and sometimes families break up in a stampede. That is why it is extremely important that everyone knows what to do in case this happens and how to get in touch as soon as they are safe.
How to communicate during a natural disaster?
Preparation for natural disasters is very important and must be done in advance, especially when it comes to communication. You need to prepare a communication system that will be maintained during a disaster. For example, if you have Voice over IP (VoIP) that will definitely not work.
- Make sure you know what type of landline phone service you are using. The moderns need energy to function and, if there is a loss of energy, obviously it will not work. Most telephone companies gave up their copper cabling and that is why you should make sure your phone works even in extreme cases. You can contact your telephone company and ask them what type of landline you have.
- If you have a phone that runs on batteries or one that has a backup system that runs on batteries, your problem is solved. If you do not have one, ask your service provider if you can deliver one. Also make sure the batteries are charged and keep a spare in the house for emergencies. Check them periodically to make sure everything is in order. You will not want to find yourself in the middle of a hurricane, with a phone that runs on batteries and without usable batteries.
- Make sure your cell phone is charged and that an additional battery does not hurt. In case the wireless connection still works after a natural disaster, you may need to use the phone many times.
- There are situations in which the power supply is turned off, but there is still secure Wi-Fi available so you can connect and read news about the disaster or send emails and chat with your loved ones. That’s why it’s important to charge your tablet and your laptop too. In case of need, you can recharge your phone’s battery from your laptop with a USB cable.
- A simple radio device can save lives. Therefore, if you have one, regardless of your power source (battery, solar or crank), you should keep it close. News agencies and radio channels broadcast during a natural disaster to keep people informed. In this way, you will know if the danger is over or if you should continue at the shelter. In addition, you can find news about missing persons and other emergencies.
- If there is a natural disaster and you still have networks and the Internet, do not take the line with voice calls unless you have an emergency. At times like this, people need to call emergency services and lines become extremely crowded. If you have service and the Internet, send a text message or an email to your loved ones and leave the voice line free.
- Try to keep your phone battery powered by activating a profile that consumes less. Decrease the brightness of the screen and do not stay online unless absolutely necessary. You never know for how long the power will be turned off and you will not want to end up with a dead phone in the middle of an emergency. Actually, you can turn off your phone if you can not get the service and there are no bars. The signal search is an activity that consumes enough battery phone.
- Make sure you are not crowding the network. If you want to redial a number, wait at least 10 seconds. The constant redialing in short periods of time can increase network congestions and in this way nobody can make a call.
- Do not try to call the emergency line if you do not have an emergency. In general, in the event of a disaster, the authorities create special lines for non-emergency situations, where you can call and obtain information.
- If you have a landline in your home that supports call forwarding, you should consider forwarding calls to your smartphone. This way, even if you have to evacuate, you can receive calls from your home.
- In case there is a power cut and your smartphone has shut down, you can charge it from your car if you have a car charger.
As you can see, a communication system during a disaster is extremely important and if you are lucky enough to have a phone that works, do not waste your battery on activities that are not important, such as games and videos.
Other types of emergency communication systems.
Mobile phones, landlines, tablets and laptops represent our main form of communication these days. If you’re lucky, these devices can help you overcome a natural disaster, offering you the possibility to stay in touch with friends and family or get in touch with authorities and rescue teams.
However, there are many situations in which traditional and modern communications all failed together, leaving people isolated at the mercy of chance. That is why an alternative communication system is absolutely necessary in a shelter or a place where people meet, waiting to safely pass the natural disaster. If you have one at home it is even better, but if not, you need to know where the closest one is in case you need to get in touch with the rescue teams.
The best emergency communication system or ECS must have the following attributes:
- Efficiency of time and speed. – When a catastrophe occurs, people must act immediately. For this to happen, they must be informed in time about emergencies and bad situations. That’s why a good ECS must be able to transmit clear information in a very fast way;
- Affordability – People would never invest their money in an expensive ECS unless they want to join a rescue team (and maybe not even then). A good communication system must be affordable for the general public to be useful. In an emergency situation, it is useless to know that there is a very good and high technology ECS in the market when you do not have one.
- Everyone can use it. let’s say he made the investment and bought the last ECS in the market, but he did not have time to read the manual. Now there are no instructions and you can not understand how to use it. A good ECS must be intuitive and easy to use.
- Sender and receiver – When you are in an emergency situation, you not only need to send notifications but also receive instructions through the ECS. We know that this may seem totally outdated, given the time we live in, but some ECS principles only had the ability to send emergency notifications.
Solution # 1 – using radio waves
Radio waves are transmitted on the basis of the Earth’s ionosphere which makes them the perfect candidate when it comes to communicating during the worst scenarios of natural disasters. The only disadvantage could be the fact that most of them work with power, but they also have backup systems that use batteries or solar energy.
There are three types of devices that can be used to contact the first responders:
- Shortwave radio which can be used to transmit messages to any person who has the equipment required to receive. Since this is a long-standing communication system through radio waves, it can be the device that saves many lives when there is nothing else around.
- Weather radio It is the device you want to have during the tornado or hurricane season. This device turns on automatically when there is an emergency transmission so everyone knows there is a bad weather alert.
- Two-way radio It operates in a range of several miles and consists of two devices capable of sending and receiving messages. They are quite small and very easy to use, so the first responders prefer to have them in their kit.
These are the main radio equipment that can help you in a difficult time, such as natural disasters. It is better to have at least one of them, even if you have a mobile phone. In case your phone does not work, a radio will definitely save the day.
Solution # 2 – public devices
As you can imagine, there are two types of ECS according to their owner: public and private. The private ones are those that we have already discussed: mobile phones, radio devices, tablets, laptops, etc. They are intended to be used by only one person.
Public devices are designed to warn as many people as possible while using visual and / or audio signals. Therefore, we have:
- Digital electronic signals on the LED indicators found on public announcement boards, subway notification panels, etc.
- Electronic signage that uses LCD TVs and monitors in public spaces such as hospitals, bars, cafes, stores, etc.
- The giant voice systems that tend to be in public buildings used to announce nearby people to protect themselves.
Another alternative public communication system during the disaster is the media (television, newspapers, online publications and radio broadcasts), but if you want to alert the population to an immediate danger, the systems listed above are more effective.
Solution # 3 – satellite communication system
Catastrophic events, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and / or fires, are often followed by a general madness and the lack of a functioning communication system makes things worse.
Therefore, when land lines and energy are low and no modern or traditional system works, the satellites are fine and continue their safe journey in orbit around the planet. This allows rescue teams and emergency personnel to meet immediate communication needs, using satellites and satellite systems. This type of communication is used mainly by humanitarian organizations and lifeguards that are usually present in large catastrophic events such as Haiti.
There are some examples that show how fragile a terrestrial communication structure is. The communication towers are usually destroyed during this type of situation, leaving people in the dark without the possibility of contacting the authorities and asking for help. This is what happened when:
- Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans;
- A devastating earthquake struck Pakistan;
- Japan was also hit by a powerful earthquake in 2011.
After these events and many like these, the importance of a wireless communication system that is not based on a terrestrial structure increased for local governments and authorities. This is where satellite communication came into the picture. They present a series of advantages for terrestrial communication, but the most important advantage is the fact that they function as they float around our planet, where wind, water or fire can not reach.
There are two main types of satellite communication that someone could use in case of emergency: geostationary satellite systems (GEO) and low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.
GEO It supports a wide range of communication services such as voice, broadband and video data, and they are 36,000 km above our planet. They sit in a fixed position and are generally owned by a country or organization that responds to special equipment (fixed or mobile) located on Earth (antennas and mobile terminals). They are not only an alternative communication system during a disaster, but they are also very useful to warn people about seismic activities that could turn into a catastrophic situation and floods.
In addition, governments can transmit warnings and maintain the general flow of information during difficult times. At this time, there are about 300 commercial GEO floating above our heads, outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
LEOs they are (as the name specifies) located in low orbits between 780 and 1500 km and are used to deliver low-speed voice and data. They are easier to contact using a mobile unit, the size of a cell phone. The fact that land units are so easy to transport allows the rescue team to use these satellites in any situation.
Satellite communication in the case of natural disasters only works if local authorities, humanitarian organizations and first responders are prepared in advance. They need to know the area and what kind of satellite units they will need. There are three main types:
- Hand – Telephone satellites that work with a mobile satellite provider. This type of device is affordable and very intuitive to use. They also respect the first condition of a good ECS, they can send and receive messages at an incredible speed.
- Communications terminals in movement. – a slightly larger equipment that is usually operated from the inside of a car (you will need one to transport it). This type of device is necessary for high-speed communications that require data communication and broadband video.
- Fixed satellite communications – Large equipment that is installed better before the disaster occurs, in an area near the area in danger of extinction. These devices are needed for a longer period of time and allow all kinds of applications (pre-disaster analysis and environmental analysis) and data sent and received at tremendous speeds.
Are you really prepared?
As you can see, according to the type of communication required, there are some preparations that must be made in advance, such as:
- choose the satellite provider and request a shipment;
- selecting the necessary bandwidth;
- selecting the type of device you will need;
- installing the device and selecting the equipment that will work with them.
Like everything else, when it comes to a natural disaster, finding the right alternative communication system requires prior preparation. All people should be aware of the fact that disasters are called this way because they tend to flatten everything their way, starting with houses, cars, trees and ending with communication towers. If this happens, you can not rely on traditional systems to alert authorities and rescue teams, you must have an alternative.