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Tips For Maintaining Communication During A Power Outage

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Possibly the scariest aspect of losing electrical power is the inability to connect with loved ones or the outside world when disaster strikes. Severe weather events capable of damaging the grid can occur anywhere at any time, causing phone lines and internet service to crash. There are stop-gap measures and preparations that can help families stay connected during a power outage as well as contingency plans you can follow when all else fails. Keep connected to your loved ones with these storm-prep tips.

Create a Communication Ring – Decide ahead of time how family members will reach each other if they are not together during a disaster. Cell phone service may be disrupted, but texts often get through when phone calls do not. Choose two people to be the central conduits for information. One of these should be a household member and the other, someone who lives in another state, where service may not be compromised. Have everyone try to text their whereabouts and other pertinent information to these two individuals.

Learn Your Phone's Email Address – Every telephone has an email address attached to it. You may be able to send and receive emails to each other's phones which arrive as texts. Contact your service provider to determine your phone's email address. In the event that you cannot reach each other, your plan should include a pre-arranged rendezvous point where family members can gather. Everyone should have a waterproof list of each other's telephone numbers and email addresses as well as have this information stored in their phones as a back-up.

Try a Corded Phone – Old school, corded landlines may have service when cordless phones do not. Having one of these available in the household may help establish and sustain contact.

At-Home and Portable Generators – Having one or both of these will help maintain the household as a home base for the family and possibly, a safe haven for other community members. Generators keep the power, and your ability to reach your family during emergencies, intact.

Two-Way Radio With Extended Range Capability  Two-way radios will enable two people to remain in contact within a radius of around 30-35 miles. Costs range tremendously, but opting for a high-end, waterproof set will give you longer battery life and the ability to receive weather alerts. Also look for a set that features built-in flashlight capability.

Citizens Band (CB) Radio – Battery-powered CB Radios have their own antennas so they typically remain operable when cell towers and landlines fail and provide communication and National Climatic Data Center (NOAA) All-Hazards/Weather Alerts over 40 channels. You can install a base unit in your home or car. Communication is usually reliable for short distances only.

American Red Cross Safe and Well List  The American Red Cross maintains a website where individuals can leave messages and list themselves as safe and well, as well as search for the names of others after a disaster. Everyone in the household should become registered members so that they can use this service if communication is not able to be established.

Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at

Learn more by visiting CBS New York's Storm Prep section

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