Emergency events like natural disasters can impede communication (think: dead cell phones during a power outage or loss of Internet during a storm). As a result, having an alternative way to communicate with others during an emergency situation is essential.
Whether you need to receive updates or notifications about an emergency or get in contact with family members, employees, or emergency services, you should own an emergency communication system or device that allows you to carry out the needed communications.
Continue reading to learn more about emergency communication systems, types, and our top picks for devices.
What is an Emergency Communication System?
An emergency communication system is a device that allows a one- or two-way exchange of information between individuals or groups during a crisis event. You may use this system during natural or man-made disasters.
Depending on the situation, the device needed to communicate will vary.
For example, if you're a business owner and need a way to mass-communicate with all employees, the system will likely be different than someone who needs to contact their family members.
To determine which devices are best for you, you'll need to consider the following:
- How many people will you need to communicate with in an emergency?
- What emergencies are most likely to affect you?
- Is two-way communication required, or do you just need to send a message?
- Do you need a way to send custom messages?
- Do you prefer a simple or complex device?
- What is your budget?
Why do I need an Emergency Communication System?
Emergency communication systems are essential as emergency communication often needs to be timely. Emergency events can occur with little to no warning and may pose health and safety threats. Communicating quickly and effectively can help mitigate some risks in an emergency.
Furthermore, cell towers and landlines may be interrupted during emergencies, so it's not enough to rely on communication via phone. Businesses and people should have backup devices to use when their primary communication system fails.
Types of Emergency Communication Devices
There are various forms of communication and they differ depending on the device. Some devices rely on one-way communication, while others are capable of sending and transmitting two-way messages. The following sections will provide examples of emergency communication devices.
There are many types of phones and ways to communicate through these devices. Be sure to keep note of significant phone numbers. Let's explore some options you have for emergency communications.
A text message may be delivered when phone calls fail. It's also a great way to send a brief message without tying up phone lines during an emergency. However, keep in mind this means of communication is only effective if cell towers are working.
Cell phones are a good way to receive emergency messages and updates; however, they could be unreliable when making phone calls during a more extensive emergency. This is because lines may become overloaded due to high volumes of calls and stop working.
They can be an effective communication option during power outages if the cell towers are intact and you have a backup charging system.
In sum, whether a cell phone is the appropriate emergency communication system will largely depend on the type and size of the emergency.
While you may think landline phones are a thing of the past, they can be instrumental in emergencies, especially when cordless phones don't have access to a power supply.
Also, when there isn't Internet access, likely, a landline will still work.
Satellite phones (Satphones) are pricier than some of the other options on this list; however, they work great in disaster events and remote areas. Satphones connect to orbiting satellites, giving you access to calling and messaging, even when the Internet and cell lines are down.
Radio communications can be helpful for receiving alerts, getting updates, and communicating about emergency events. However, these radios will require some power source, whether batteries or electricity, to work.
Two-way radios are devices that allow information to be sent and received. The range and capabilities of a two-way radio depend on the model. For example, some only work in short radiuses, while others can cover larger distances.
Some allow you to transmit and receive messages simultaneously, while others only permit you to communicate in turns.
These devices can be a good backup option when you don't have phone access.
Our top pick is the Midland GXT1000VP4, with a 36-mile radius.
A Citizens Band Radio (CB Radio) allows communication across short distances on radio frequencies. They are similar to two-way radios and can be a great way to get information during an emergency. Some models, like the Uniden BEARCAT 880 CB Radio, come with an NOAA weather alert.
These radios have a long antenna and require a vehicle or base station mount, which makes them less practical than a two-way radio.
A HAM Radio or Amateur Radio is the most versatile two-way radio for public use. These radios permit you to communicate over large distances and send voice, text, data, and images.
A license is required to operate these types of radios. The training classes are very affordable. The equipment for this radio also varies in capability and price, so you can select one that best suits your needs.
TIDRADIO offers an affordable HAM radio that's designed for beginners.
Traditional AM/FM radio can be a great way to gather information about an emergency or crisis. Stations will often cover local and national events, providing updates.
Many options are available, like hand-crank, solar-power, and battery-powered models for emergencies.
Our pick is the Weather Radio Raynic 5000, which can be powered 5 ways and has access to AM, FM, SW, and NOAA Weather Alert.
The Internet is a great way to receive information and communicate when cell towers are down. Wifi calling, hotspots, email, and other forms of internet communication use wifi through fiber optic cables and routers to operate, rather than a cell tower.
There are tons of websites and applications available that are specifically designed to help people in emergencies and natural disasters.
Consider downloading the following apps:
- American Red Cross First Aid
- Zello Walkie Talkie
- Disaster Alert
Social media, like Twitter, Facebook, and Google, can be great tools for getting emergency updates and information to help during a crisis.
Facebook, for example, allows you to mark yourself as safe during an emergency so your loved ones can see. On Twitter, local government accounts and organizations like FEMA post updates during emergencies. Follow them to stay up to date.
Google Crisis Response has information for those needing assistance and emergency responders.
Voice over Internet Protocol
VoIP is a technology that lets you communicate over the Internet. Some examples are FaceTime or Skype, which enable you to make and receive calls over digital signals. These technologies can be helpful when you have a high-speed Internet connection.
Many smartwatches nowadays have a walkie-talkie, calling, and texting capabilities. They also may have GPS tracking and emergency alert notifications.
Our top picks are:
- Samsung Galaxy Watch 5
- Apple Watch Series 8
- CoCo Bluetooth smartwatch
Having a means of communication during a disaster event can sometimes be the difference between life and death. Getting in contact with others and receiving alerts or emergency notifications is essential. Regardless of the communication methods you choose, familiarize yourself with how they operate and when to use them, so you're ready to go if an emergency occurs.