How to communicate when the grid goes down

By Nick Oetken
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How to communicate when the grid goes down

Nick Oetken
 
 
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Have you ever thought about how you would communicate with your family if the grid goes down? How will you get in touch with your wife who is at work or your kids who are at school, if a disaster strikes?

If you instantly thought that you’d call them on your cell phone, think again. Like most of the forms of communication that we rely on today, cell phones are also connected to the grid. So, if there is a disaster that brings down the power grid in some way, you have to have a backup plan for communicating with your loved ones.

Here are a few devices that will help you to communicate if disaster strikes and the grid goes down.

Cell phone

In a disaster, your cell phone should still work okay but the network may be disrupted
In a disaster, your cell phone should still work okay but the network may be disrupted

Although we already mentioned that cell phones are not the best option for communicating if the power grid goes down, they are still a possible solution. At least, for the first few hours anyway. Since the phone runs on a battery, you still have sometime to use it before it goes off. Although cell towers also need power, most of them have a backup system that will give you a few hours during the initial period of the disaster.

The advantage of using a cell phone is that you can communicate in many different ways. You can text, call, use social media or many different means of internet communication. The biggest disadvantage is that the battery won’t last long, and in a few hours you will probably lose signal since the cell towers will most likely start shutting down.

So, having a cell phone is an excellent way for communicating in the initial stage of a disaster. But, since they won’t last for long, you will need additional equipment for communication.

CB radio

Tristar 777 CB radio – Author: Paul Lucas – CC BY 2.0
Tristar 777 CB radio – Author: Paul Lucas – CC BY 2.0

Today, CB radios are mostly used by truckers on the road. The reason for that is that they are made for short-range communications, which makes them an excellent option for truck drivers to talk to each other while navigating the cities and highways of the country.

You can easily get one for a decent price since they are widely available. But, since they are meant to have a short range, you can rely on them only for communicating within a relatively small area. They are not your best choice if you plan on getting away from the city.

Also, have in mind that not many people use CB radios. Maybe you could equip every member of your family with one, but you probably won’t be able to communicate with other people or pick up on some emergency station frequencies.

Satellite phone

Iridium AxcessPoint – Autor: Iridium Satellite Communications – CC BY 2.0
Iridium AxcessPoint – Autor: Iridium Satellite Communications – CC BY 2.0

Satellite phones are great communication devices for emergency situations, but they have a few flaws. First of all, they are connected to satellites, and if those satellites cease to work, so will your emergency phone. Another flaw with satellite phones is the price. Apart from paying a significant amount of cash for the device, you will also be charged for the satellite service and the minutes you’ll spend using it.

If you can afford the high costs of owning a satellite phone, it’s an excellent way to communicate with your loved ones if a disaster strikes.

HAM radio

Hamradio station – Author: Venglin – CC BY-SA 4.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 2.5, CC BY-SA 2.0, CC BY-SA 1.0
Hamradio station – Author: Venglin – CC BY-SA 4.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 2.5, CC BY-SA 2.0, CC BY-SA 1.0

HAM radios are the most effective communication devices on this list, and they can reach well beyond your area. That’s why many search and rescue teams across the world use them as their primary communication device. You will be able to contact your family and tune in to emergency stations to keep up to date on the current situation. Since they are more common than CB radios, you’ll have a better chance of getting in touch with people around you.

HAM radio has some disadvantages, though. Firstly, to operate one you’ll need an FCC license. It’s not something you can get at the store and use off the shelf. Also, they are a little more tricky to learn to use. But, once you get used to it, it’ll be an easy process from there. `

Walkie talkie

Communicating with walkie-talkie
Communicating with walkie-talkie

Walkie talkies are great and simple communication devices to use locally. The best thing about them is that you don’t need a license to use them, and you probably have one stored away already. They are very easy to use, pretty cheap, and readily available. Since they run on batteries, you can use them as long as you have a good supply of AA’s.

The only disadvantage with walkie-talkies is that they are extremely limited in range, just like CB radios. Therefore, you won’t be able to get in touch with people that are several miles away from you. On the plus side, you can easily get in touch with other people, since they are very popular and many people already have them in their homes.

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