The recent earthquake caught a lot of people by surprise. It rumbled like many of the others, and then it did something many were not prepared for, it didn't stop. Instead of the rolling motions slowly fading away, the shaking intensity increased. Perhaps it was more similar to the end of a good competition; the Sunday evening earthquake in May finished with a flurry of action.Thankfully, the earthquake ended before the knockout punch was delivered. Experts are predicting we shouldn't bank on always being so lucky. This message is the start of a series of messages on emergency preparedness for our community. The title came from a brainstorming session the members of the Emergency Preparedness Committee held in April. They were searching for a catchy motto for their public education efforts. Once they thought it over, the phrase "you know you're ready when..." seemed to fit every one of their informational messages. Preparing ourselves for the many predictable emergencies we face in Southern California is the most important action we can take for ourselves and our community. Educating ourselves and learning a few emergency skills is the best way to reduce the likelihood of needing our local Emergency Services. Developing an emergency plan for the predictable consequences of a major (or minor) disaster will certainly improve the way we recover from our losses. Building a supply of the necessities we will need to get through the next emergency will assist us as we discover (first hand) many resources really are limited immediately after an emergency. Limited Resources ? Since the Sunday evening earthquake a surprising number of people have commented on the problems with our phone system immediately after earthquakes. The trouble is generally described as a lack of dial tone for land-line phones (traditionally the hard-wired home/business phones). However, cellular phones have a similar problem and calls don't get connected. 'Surprising' was the word used to describe the number of comments because this isn't the first time the phone system has not performed as we expect. What if any of us needed to make a call and the phone lines were down? What if we wanted to check on our family members, at home, when we were at work, immediately after an earthquake? If our cell phone didn't work (or perhaps the land-line), do we have other options? The short answer is…yes. Truth is we have lots of options for communications during and following an emergency. We just need to know about them. Option #1: Don't call. Prepare your families for emergencies before they happen. It's the right thing to do and a great way to have some peace of mind when we can't speak with our loved ones directly. Option #2: If you are convinced (because of an emergency situation) you need to make contact, try using a different phone system. Many times one of the phone systems will work. Sometimes one cellular provider will have open air time when another does not. Option #3: Try text messaging. Yes, unbelievable as it may sound, 'texting' could be the best way for families and co-workers to communicate (during and after emergencies). Text messaging often uses different communications bandwidths ('pipes' for the information is how it has been explained to me). So text message pipes may not get as clogged-up as typical cellular pipes. Text messages are also small 'packages' of information that frequently fit through the narrow (or intermittent) openings in the pipes. Option #4: Try using the PIN contact or press-to-talk option. Your cellular phone or Blackberry may have a private line capability that lies undiscovered. Many devices have a unit-to-unit option that works very well. Surprisingly, many of the devices we use everyday as phones has expanded capacities we don't understand or even know about. Option #5: Try sending an e-mail or instant message. Many times the internet is 'up' when other sources of communication are over-crowded or disabled. Option #6: Contact a predetermined out-of-state friend. Check in and leave a message for others in your communications network. Many times the phone lines will work for out of state phone calls (after you wait for a period of time for a dial tone) when the local lines are over-loaded after an emergency. The most important part of the important portion of the message above is the 'action' part. Take a positive step today to learn more about one of the options mentioned above. Learn how to text message (you might even have fun doing it!). Read through the operational instructions for your phone system. You never know when your new skills may become very valuable. Many thanks to the Patriot staff for granting me the space for this message.
********** Published: June 5, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 7