South County ARES
Preparing for an Emergency
There's more to being prepared for an emergency than just having the right supplies on hand. Any emergency brings with
it lots of stress and anxiety. Much of this stress can come just from
"not knowing" how those you care about are doing or from not being
able to let your loved ones know how you are doing. Anxiety often increases when large distances are involved
making it virtually impossible to find out "what's going on". Making
advance plans for emergency communications as well as supplies can help reduce stress and anxiety when a major
disaster strikes. This page gives you some suggestions for what you
can do right now to prepare for contacting loved ones during an emergency:
- Arrange with out-of-state friends or relatives to act as "message contacts".
- Find out the names of Amateur Radio Operators in your area.
- Find out the names of Amateur Radio Operators in your family's area.
- Ask your local chapter of the American Red Cross for their policy and procedures concerning "health and welfare" traffic
- Talk to family members and agree on a plan for exchanging messages
with each other; make sure everyone is clear on what to expect.
- Be realistic about what can be done during the first 72 hours immediately following a major disaster.
Select A Message Contact
In the event of a major disaster, normal modes of communication (mainly
the telephone) are either inoperable or available only for emergency
use. Most of us have heard the admonition to leave the telephone lines
clear so emergency calls can get through and to not call in to a disaster-stricken area to check on friends and family. In-coming
calls to a disaster area may actually be blocked, but out-going calls
may not be. Under certain circumstances, you may be able to get access
to long-distance service in order to call out of the area experiencing the emergency.
Ask an out-of-state friend or relative if he/she would be willing to
be an emergency contact point for you and your family: You could return
the favor in case of an emergency in his/her area. Set it up so that
everyone concerned about you knows the name and number of the out-of-state
contact. During the emergency, call your out-of-state contact to give
them a brief message about your status. Include information about other local family
members if you know it. Things to include would be:
- Physical status
- Where you are staying
- How to reach you in case of family emergency
- The next time you will try to make contact
It would be helpful if your out-of-state contact has an answering machine so you can leave the message even if no one is at home. You will not
have to tie up the phone line again making additional calls just to
get the message to them. Once the contact has your information, other
friends and family can call the contact to find out how you are doing.
Have out-of-state family members set up their own message contacts
in case of an emergency in their area so you can find out about them if they experience a major disaster. But what do you do if the telephones don't work at all?
A very good back-up mode of communication is Amateur Radio. For decades,
Amateur Radio operators have provided back-up communication during
times of disaster, often relaying messages over long distances. Take
the time now to find out who the Amateur Radio operators are in your area and then
find which ones are capable of transmitting outside of your area. It is also a good idea to find out the names of Amateur
Operators in your message contact's area. Then, during an emergency,
you may be able to have your message relayed across country to an Amateur
Radio operator who lives within local calling distance to your message
contact. Once they get your message, they can call your contact to
give them the information.
Conversely, Amateur Radio operators may be able to transmit a request
for information into the affected area. During a major emergency, Ham groups set up emergency
"nets" to handle incoming and outgoing emergency traffic, so they would
not be too difficult to find and contact.
So how do you go about finding Amateur Radio operators in your area?
Since you're reading this Web page, contacts for the southern part
of San Mateo county are just a click away! Contact the Emergency Coordinators listed for the city of interest and that person will help get names
of Amateur Operators near you. They can also help you get information
about contacting Amateurs in any Bay area city or you can contact the
Pacific Division of ARRL . You'll find many Amateur Radio clubs and Emergency Service groups
from around the country listed on our page of Links to Other Amateur Radio Web Pages. Finally, you can contact ARRL (American Radio Relay League) headquarters by phone or US Mail to request the information. The postal
address and phone number is
225 Main Street
Newington, Ct. 06111-1494
Ask for the Emergency Coordinator for the area you are concerned about.
ARRL can give you that information complete with phone number. Share
the information with your family and your out-of-state message contact.
Contact the American Red Cross
Your local chapter of the American Red Cross can give you policy and procedure information about handling health
and welfare messages, locally and nationwide.
The first 72 hours
A word of caution: in a major disaster, health and welfare traffic will not be handled
until after the emergency has cooled down. Emergency communications
are first dedicated to handling messages for life-threatening situations
and then those for property loss. The traffic pace is very hectic and
the volume of traffic is great. Health and welfare messages are given
lower priority and probably won't be handled until after the first
Because of these factors, it's important that you discuss with your
family realistic expecations about how soon you will be able to make contact with them,
either directly or through your message contact. At a time when it
is most difficult, it will be most important to be patient and not
Links to Emergency Preparedness Information
Note: SCARES provides these links for your convenience. No endorsement
or recommendation of any service is implied.