Family Communication During an Emergency

How do we communicate with our families during an Emergency? This question comes up every time we see another national or international natural disaster. Whether it be extreme wind storms, earthquakes, wildland fires, or more, communicating with our families to ensure their well-being and safety is paramount.

Most will rely on Cell Phone/Texting. This is the technology that we depend on throughout our day to day lives. HOWEVER, what if we are not able to use our cell phones? We witnessed the lack of cell phone capabilities in and around Salt Lake County during the March 18, 2020 medium-sized earthquake in Magna. Cell/text traffic was limited at best and severely hampered and delayed. We have seen this in recent national events as recent as Christmas Morning, 2020.

We have options with the capabilities during these events to still reach out to our families during a time of need, and they come in various options of radio communications, which work from one up to ten miles and may offer multi-state radio coverage.

These options are known as FRS Radio, GMRS Radio, and Amateur (Ham) Radio communications.

• FRS (Family Radio Service) are somewhat advanced Walkie-Talkies that can be purchased locally, require no license, and are inexpensive. These Radios have programmed ‘channels’ and are useful up to five miles. The down side is that, in an emergency or need, this option will have a tremendous amount of traffic of communications with very limited protocol.

• GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) are further advanced walkie-talkies that have a bit more power that FRS Radios. These radios do require a license; however, it is a simple form, and a fee of $35.00 for a ten-year license. These radios use a different set of ‘channels’ and having higher power, the range can be up to 10 miles or more.

• Ham Radio: Ham Radio communication has been around since the 1920s and are still in use for private hobbyists and used in worldwide emergency communication support during times of need and disasters. A Ham operator is a licensed operator, and it’s relatively easy to become one. In many cases a full-day class, or a few nightly classes, a test, and $35.00 provides the operator a ten-year renewable license. Ham radios have capability of local, state, national and international communications.

As a family and community, we need to do our part to be prepared. To communicate locally with our family members is easy, and with these options, each family can decide which is the best option for them to have the ability and peace of mind to effectively communicate with their family members during an emergency. As recent historical events have shown, we may not have our trusted cell/text communications during a time of real need.

For further information on how best to increase our emergency communications back-up, please reach out to the City Emergency Preparedness Committee, your local District Leaders, or any of the more than 300 Licensed Ham Operators that reside within our City.

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