Lets face it, most of us are used to picking up our phone and calling or texting someone at a moments notice. On a day-to-day basis it is very easy to communicate. This is the marvel of modern technology. I highly recommend that you have a cellualr phone with you at all times. For most people, signal will be good enough to call for help in an emergency. Even with very low signal a text message can often still be transmitted. Keeping the appropriate chargers and a power bank handy is also advisable. In a large percentage of situations this will be enough to call for help if you have a medical emergency, auto accident, become lost, or face a natural disaster. There are times though that the cellular networks will be overwhelmed or down completely.
These situations where cell phone access is unavailable require a bit more thought to plan for. This has been see multiple times in the recent past. On 9/11 cell networks in the surrounding area were crippled from the immense load of the calls. They became unusable. I even experiened some of this hundreds of miles away as the cellular providers attempted to reroute call traffic through secondary routes to lessen the load. Ironically, when being able to make a call is the most important is when it is most likely to be jammed up. This means that we must plan alternate methods to communicate with family, group members.
One of the easiest ways to set up an alternate communication plan over a moderate distance is handheld “walkies.” While these could be susceptible to breaking down from an EMP or simple age, they are simple to aquire, train on, and deploy. Most of these require standard batteries and additional ones can be stored with it. Rechargable batteries and a solar or crank charger would be a nice addition. Also many models have weather alerts built in. You do need to remember a few facts though. First, these have a limited range that greatly decreases with obstructions. Second, most if not all of the channels on these are public and not secure. A personal set of code words would be advisible in case things become hostile. Lastly, often different models and brands may not be set up with the same channels. This can also vary with the ages of the units. Decide on and test channels ahead of time.
Here is an example of a unit that is rated well and affordable
A second option that is similar is CB or Ham radios. I will not go over all the differences, but basically CBs are lower powered and not regulated where as HAM radios require a license but have much more power and bandwidth. These units would allow for a much larger range than hand held 2 way radios. The trade off is that these normally require more power to run. Ham radios do come in handheld models, but many of the more powerful are a fixed location affair. Another plus though is that you can communicate with groups such as emergeny responders in yoiur area via HAM. Most 2 way walkies cannot do that. There are many great online resources about HAM radio and most areas have a “club” where you could meet some experienced HAM operators.
In the event that the use of electronics is not possible, there are still ways to communicate with others. This can require a bit more preplanning if you feel that there may be the possibility of others misusing the information. It would be smart to come up with some “code” with your group members. It does not have to be hard. Something as simple as refering to Grandpa’s house as “The Farm” or using a symbol for each member to securely sign the communication. It may sound a bit like an old spy movie, but if things are really bad, nefarious individuals might use intercepted communication to track or ambush you. On the up side, as long as everyone knows the “code”, there is no harm in it and it might even simplify things.
There are several ways you can use this code. You could write a note and place it somewhere out of sight that others know to check. This could let you confirm your status, travel desination, and who is with you. Another way to leave communication might be to paint something on the side of a building along your route. While this would not be good to do in normal times, during a forced evacuation or worse cases it might be the best way to catch the eye of others in your group traveling the same route. Sharpie style markers are also useful to do this on a smaller scale. These coukd be used to write on windows, street signs, or abandoned cars.
While I know some of this may lean toward the apocalyptic level of disasters, it will hopefully give you something to think about for all levels of planning. Because of things such as long commutes, children away at school, and simple distance between towns, we may find ourselves far flung when disaster strikes. This communication is important because it connects you to your most valuable resource, family and friends.