Introduction

Pretty much all modern communications depend upon electricity. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about radio, television, the Internet or telephones, every device we count on to communicate uses electricity for its power source. Should the grid go down, those devices will cease to function.

Nevertheless, if there is one time when some form of communication is needed, it’s during a major catastrophe. You’ll need to be able to find out what’s going on, inform family members that you’re okay, and find information to survive. Without the ability to communicate, all problems will be magnified.

While the power might be out, there will probably still be some communications available. The federal government established emergency communications procedures that radio stations are required to practice. Many of those radio stations have generators for emergency power.

The Details

  • Battery-Powered Radios. To start with, you should have a battery powered radio. Even better is to have a radio with a built-in generator. While not common, these devices are specifically designed for use in undeveloped areas or in the case of emergency. With one, it is possible to tune in on the emergency radio broadcasts to receive important information about what’s happening.
  • Cell Phones. The main landline phone system may not have the same emergency power system available, but since most cell phone services have emergency power systems at their retransmission towers, you may have limited cell phone use during a grid-down situation. However, circuits will probably be overloaded, and you’ll likely have trouble getting your call to go through.
  • Ham Radio. The worldwide ham radio network is probably the most reliable communications system in existence, perhaps even more reliable than government systems. The thousands of ham radio operators use their radios to communicate with friends around the world. They also stand ready to serve the community during all types of emergencies. While other communications might be down, if you have a short-wave radio, you’ll be able to find out what’s happening by listening to the news that these hobbyists provide.

Taking that a step further, you may want to consider getting your own ham radio license. To do so, you have to take a class and pass a test on basic radio theory. The Morse code test is no longer necessary and has been eliminated. With a license, you are able to both transmit and receive over ham radio frequencies.

  • Portable Two-Way Radios. There are a number of short-range two-way radios on the market that could be excellent for family communications in a grid-down situation. Typically, these radios have a range of three to five miles, enough for your home and neighborhood. If the power outage is accompanied by general social unrest, these radios would be a necessary part of your home defense system, allowing family members to contact each other when an attack is imminent.
  • Internet. Depending upon your means of connecting to the Internet, you may still have service during a power outage. You’ll need to be operating off of battery power to connect to it, but many services are likely to be operating off of emergency power systems.
  • Lots of Batteries. In today’s world, where we use so much electronic equipment, batteries are important. Whatever communications devices you use, you’ll need batteries to run them. Stock up. Fortunately, one of the major manufacturers is now advertising a ten-year shelf life for its products.
  • Solar Charging. In addition to a good stock of batteries, it makes sense to get a solar battery charger. Unless you live in a place where it rains 350 days per year, you probably have enough sun to charge your batteries and keep your communications running.

The Bottom Line

The biggest problem people will face in communicating during a grid down situation actually resides in their homes. Without electrical power in the home, many of the items we use to communicate won’t be functional. However, with battery-operated devices, such as cell phones and laptop computers, we can have some communications available to us, even if extremely limited.

The key to ensuring communications in such a situation is to have several means available to you, as well as a reliable source of power. Each situation will be unique, and the communications that are functional in one situation may be different than those available during a crisis of a different kind. With a variety of systems available, you can continue trying until you find one that is up and running.