Cell Phones Suck When The Earth Quakes
My kids all have cell phones.
Better ones than I have, to be honest. 7’s. They are bright, shiny, fancy. They spend hours on them, headphones on, looking at YouTube videos, playing games, chatting with their friends. With my being involved in preparing folks for the giant earthquake, they even have backup batteries in their school bags.
When I call they never answer right away, and when I text, it can be a while, sometimes a long while, before I get a response, even though they are constantly reminded the only reason I pay for the phones is to be able to reach my children.
With work, school, running around, it’s hard enough to keep connected at the best of times; now imagine cell towers failing, no signal, the inevitable confusion immediately following a 9.0 mega earthquake and the ground shaking violently for 3 to 5 minutes or more.
A Family Communication Plan is more than just putting phone numbers and email addresses on a piece of laminated paper that everybody carries with them in their purse, school bag, wallet, or glove box; it is a plan for what you will do to find each other, talk to each other, and stay connected immediately after the earthquake.
The first rule of thumb following an earthquake is “Don’t Talk – Text.”
It’s a good rule. FEMA recommends that unless you are in danger, send a text. Texts may have an easier time getting through than phone calls, and you don’t want to tie up phone lines needed by emergency workers.
I just assume that everyone will be trying to get a hold of everybody at the same time and that getting a hold of my kids, my partner, my family members will be darn near impossible with my cell phone, at least not immediately following the earthquake .
There’s a method to the madness:
If everybody knows where to go when the shaking starts, and goes there, then there’s no need to use the cell phone immediately. As a parent/partner, I know that unless I’m injured, my kids and partner will be at a specific location, and it’s my role to get there when I can to meet up. Using the “no news is good news” model at first keeps everyone focused – make sure you’re ok, then go to the meeting place to check on others.
I tell my kids that if they are injured or need help, until I’m physically present there’s not really much I can do, so it’s up to them to find help from a responsible adult, to actually carry their “go bag”, and to not whine when I have them take their first aid classes.
These are the questions to focus on now, not after the earthquake hits:
Where will you meet up with your loved ones if you have to get out of your house/school/workplace quickly?
Where will you meet if your neighborhood is being evacuated and you’re not at home?
What about roads and bridges? (I live in a city cut in parts by rivers, and could be completely cut off after the mega earthquake if I’m on one side and my kids are on the other side). Are there alternate meeting locations if your first choice is inaccessible?
Most schools have emergency plans, some better than others, but you should absolutely talk to the Principal or administrator and find out where they plan to evacuate your kids to, and work backwards from there.
Plan three ways to get to the meeting point other than the normal way you would get there. Drive/walk/bike those three routes. Get to know them – remember, in a giant mega quake, familiar roads may not be safe.
Bikes are awesome!
Bikes are a great way to extend how far you can travel, how much you can carry, and make travel over broken ground easier at times than going on foot. Going for a bike ride with your kids to trace your evacuation routes is an awesome family activity, and a great way to make sure that everyone knows where to go and how they will get there.
If you need more help planning, talk to your local CERT or NET team member. These are folks in your neighborhood trained in emergency preparedness and response, who can help your family build a plan.