National Preparedness Month and a Time Without Twitter

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[This is a guest post from ImpactWeather’s Business Continuity Specialist, Alison Svrcek. To mark National Preparedness Month, Alison’s team at ImpactReady has several blog posts scheduled for the rest of the month. Read Alison’s bio here.]

September is National Preparedness Month (link) and it’s perhaps no coincidence that it falls during what is historically the most active month of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. Though the 2014 Atlantic season has been quiet thus far, the 114th anniversary of the deadliest natural disaster in United States history—with over 8,000 lives lost—was yesterday, and it was a hurricane. The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 crept up to the Texas Coast with little fanfare and caught most residents of the island by surprise. Today it’s hard to imagine a time when the term “emergency communications” had yet to be coined, but in 1900 telephones and even electricity, were not yet common conveniences (Alexander Graham Bell placed the first New York-Chicago phone call in 1892). At the turn of the last century the telegraph, rider on horseback and word of mouth were the only communication options that could be considered “quick.” Fast-forward to 2014 and it’s readily apparent that our technology-savvy world is vastly different from 114 years ago. In an instant and from almost any location, you can update your status to Twitter and Facebook for anyone in the world to see, while posting photos to Instagram and checking the exact location of your friends using GPS technology. Except of course, during a catastrophic disaster when all at once we are cast into the shadows of 1900 without electricity, without telephones, without Twitter. How will you and your family reconnect if you are separated?

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900, even 114 years later, is still categorized as the worst natural disaster in United States history. Photo: Public domain

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900, even 114 years later, is still categorized as the worst natural disaster in United States history. Photo: Public domain

The first week of National Preparedness Month activities centers on how to Reconnect with Family After a Disaster. Do you and your family have a plan to stay connected? The FEMA website Ready.gov provides helpful tips and information about how to establish communications and prepare for a disaster. Even in today’s digital world, it’s important to make a contact card for each family member, including children, and to keep this information handy in a purse, wallet, briefcase, laptop case, backpack, car glove box and book bag. Another helpful tip is to check with your child’s school or daycare facility about their identification and communication plan during an emergency.

The hand-drawn surface analysis from the day before landfall of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane. Image: Public domain

The hand-drawn surface analysis from the day before landfall of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane. Image: Public domain

Next, designate a contact such as a friend or relative living out-of-state for household members to notify that they are safe. Make sure every member of the family knows the phone number and has a method to call: cell phone, coins for a pay phone or prepaid phone card to reach the emergency contact. Also, program an ICE (In Case of Emergency) contact into your phone and make sure to tell the person you’ve chosen him or her as your ICE contact. First responders often check ICE listings to reach immediate family during an emergency.

Lastly, ensure family members know how to use text messaging (aka SMS or Short Message Service). Network disruptions often occur during emergencies due to volume overload or damage to infrastructure, however SMS messages are more likely to transmit successfully during an emergency. It’s also helpful to subscribe to local emergency alert services. You can visit your local Office of Emergency Management website for more information.

This is the first of ongoing blog postings from the ImpactReady team. We look forward to promoting personal and business preparedness and readiness on an regular basis. With the promotion of National Preparedness Month, we will continue to provide help tips and information to keep you and your family safe in the event of an emergency.

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