On Aug. 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 storm, bringing 130 mph winds and over 50 inches of rain. Meteorologists claimed the storm created a 1,000-year flood event.
Within days, one-third of Houston — America’s fourth-largest city — was underwater. Over 37,000 people were forced from their homes and relocated to shelters. At least 88 people died. Initial estimates calculated over $125 billion in damages.
First responders rescued over 10,000 people who were trapped in their homes or on highways. The Houston Police Department’s Dive Team rescued 3,000 people in just four days. Officer Austin Huckabee said he and four other officers saved 40 people in the first 24 hours.
And I’m sure there are hundreds more incredible stories of survival and rescue that we will never hear about.
Twitter to the Rescue
In the aftermath of this devastating storm, stranded residents desperately tried any way they could think of to communicate with others. Many people came up with some pretty ingenious solutions…
One family used Twitter to ask for help. They were able to tweet the number of people stranded on a roof and the exact address where they were located. This was shared by other Twitter users, which led to the family’s rescue.
Using social media probably isn’t the first thing you would think of in an emergency. But clearly, it’s a great way to share information and learn what’s going on in your area.
With that in mind, here are a few other ways to gather intelligence after a disaster. Hopefully, these techniques will help you and your family get the information you need to stay safe if a similar disaster strikes your town.
- Ham radio — A ham radio is just one type of quality long-range two-way radio. One popular example is the BaoFeng UV-5R. A ham radio can serve multiple purposes after a disaster. You can use it to listen to weather reports, monitor emergency broadcast channels and stay in contact with friends and family members. Keep in mind you do not need a license to listen to amateur (ham) radio frequencies, but an FCC license is required to transmit on them
- CB radio — A CB (citizens band) radio is another type of two-way radio. It is most commonly used by truckers. However, it can be used in either a vehicle or home. Most CB radios come complete with a mounting bracket, microphone and power cord for around $200. Not only can it help you communicate with people nearby but one of my favorite features of a CB radio is the public address horn — which acts like a megaphone. For example, if you had a CB radio in your car, you could drive around and use it to alert your neighbors of an incoming threat. Or you could use it to warn someone approaching you to stay away
- Satellite phone — After a disaster, cellphone towers may be completely damaged or so overloaded that you won’t be able to make a call. This is why a satellite phone is a worthy investment if you want to maintain the ability to make phone calls. Typically, a satellite phone will work as long as it has a clear view of the sky. Many first responders and military personnel depend on satellite phones to keep communications open even when there is no cell service. However, even an inexpensive satellite phone will cost around $500, so this isn’t a small investment.
- Drone — Drones fly best in ideal weather conditions. Even a little bit of wind can throw a drone around and render it useless. So depending on the situation, you may or may not be able to fly a drone. However, if you can use one, they can be very helpful when bugging out. You can fly a drone in advance of your planned bug-out route so you can prepare for any obstacles or threats. This way you can adjust your route accordingly and stay safe. Also, a drone is perfect for flying around the exterior of your home or neighborhood to be on the lookout for impending danger.
The reality is after a disaster, accurate intel is the key to surviving and finding safety. You need to be able to get real-time information as the crisis unfolds.
There are many different ways to do this depending on the situation and your limitations — you should definitely prepare more than one way to get information and stay in touch. I highly recommend you start crafting your communications plan today.