Municipality Emergency Communication Preparedness
This brief guide shows exactly how you can save victims in emergency situations as well as keeping personnel safe in the process.
Your personal team can effectively save lives by having a plan of communication.
Preparation for an emergency is essential and a strong communication-plan is the backbone.
Please read and implement this guide, make adjustments for your situation, then feel free to share it with your appropriate staff.
In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina smashed into the Southeast corner of the United States. Hurricane Katrina is a category five major hurricane and is the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States. Communication issues ravaged the municipalities of the area leaving emergency response teams in a state of disorder. The terrible events of Hurricane Katrina is just one example of communication breakdown during an emergency and the aftermath.
Communication is a major part of your government's role in an emergency. Their job is to receive and/or relay information about emergency situations and respond accordingly. There should be a chain of backup plans to prepare for communication loss that are regularly reviewed and practiced. In the event that certain forms of communication fail, there needs to be a system in place for government entities to be able to communicate in other ways in order to give relief to those in need.
Internal CommunicationFor internal communication within government agencies, timing is key. When communication is delayed the repercussions can be catastrophic and the lives of citizens and personnel can be lost. First responders rely on dispatchers for internal communication within their agency to relay information on location, safety hazards, medical status, and other life saving information.
External CommunicationCommunication starts externally in the case of local government emergency preparedness. In an emergency situation many times authorities are alerted via outside sources. Keeping an open flow of communication to and from external sources is vital for response teams to remedy an emergency situation. There are many external forms of communication in order to get safety information to civilians that can be a matter of life or death for many.
- Radios are reliable: Unlike cell phone towers which can be knocked out after long power outages, internet, or GPS, radio only has one enemy, and that is solar flares. The radio is the most reliable form of communication due to it's versatility. Police typically use 2 types of radios, both small personal radios and the larger set built into the car. Radios are so reliable that in Seattle's public safety radio network was reliable 99.9994% of the time, and the .0006% had average delay times of 2 seconds.
- Private Lines: No "network busy" or " no circuits available" with radios. Radios give emergency responders either exclusive rights to the line, or priority right. Even the President's blackberry can't get service that reliable.
- Encryption: Many police radios are open to the public, especially in the US and Norway, even streaming online. Certain channels can be encrypted, as Santa Monica has done for the past 2 years, making it impossible to listen to certain channels without the proper equipment.
- Medical Emergencies: Keeping in contact with medical professionals and in-route ambulances is vital on the ground for firefighters, who frequently act as first responders. 70% of calls firefighters respond to are medical emergencies. In some cases it takes 6 firefighters to work on one critical patients, so keeping hands free and in contact is vital.
- Workplace hazards to devices: Fire. Wind. The heat of a building on fire can easily melt cellphones and other less sturdy communication devices. Having a loud, clear communication device that can break through the racket is vital, and for fire fighters who suffer from hearing loss, necessary, even when close. Radio failure, or misuse, is one of the reasons firefighters are lost, using the proper equipment is of the utmost importance for this line of work
- Necessary for safety: Using their radios for most calls, everyday, is fairly standard procedure for fire-fighters. They use them to give directions, to direct from hydrant to hose, and to get equipment or help where it is needed. If a firefighter becomes trapped in a burning building, using the radio may be his best means to call out for help. Radios are not just a convenience, but a necessity to complete the job..
- Primary form of internal communication: For Animal Control, the primary form of internal communication is either face-to-face, or radio communication. Telephone communication is used, but primarily for dispatch purposes. Animal control has a pressing need for effective communication within their department due to the high injury risk when dealing with wild animals.
- Wild animals warrant emergency response: Animals roaming the streets are a real and present danger to society, most animals may be nice or feral enough to run away, but aggressive pet dogs alone pose a risk 30 times that of mountain lions. A quick and timely response means radio communication is critical for this branch of government.
- Emergency Responders: Emergency Medical Services, these are the back of the ambulance responders who come to your door, if anything changes from leaving the hospital to getting on location, EMS responders depend on receiving that information before arrival. Any information is necessary, if a patient suddenly goes from non-emergency to emergency, or mentions that their weight will require additional crews to lift, it is pertinent that information be passed as quickly as possible to the crew arriving crews.
- Harsh Conditions: EMS can be a bloody job, full of disasters. Getting a sturdy form of communication that won't fail is crucial for pre-arrival, on scene assessments, and pass alongs once the responder has arrived at the hospital. Lives are literally at risk when communication is unavailable for EMS.
Methods of Communication
For incoming communication from external sources the telephone is the number one form of communication. Calling 911 is the easiest way for the community to get in contact with Emergency Services. There are also non-emergency lines for poisoning, arranging appointments, and information about the hospital.
When Emergency Services arrive on the scene on major disasters, such as a building collapse, to find patients who are alive and getting them out of the hazard zone can determine that patient's future. Utilizing a bull-horn to both get attention, and to communicate to a larger crowd over a larger space is an effective way to start triaging patients.
Even though the first real two-way radio didn't break into the scene until 1923, in Australia, and took up the whole back seat, it is responsible for the way public officers on the streets are able to so effectively communicate back to headquarters. They are good for businesses who need effective, reliable internal communication constantly available. Two way radios are utilized by construction worker, subcontractors, military personnel, ems services, police officers, and hospitality workers. The live up-to-date contact is one of the best ways to maintain contact.
Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL)/Ham Radio
Ham radio, or amateur radio-ist are often enjoyed by local listeners who are excited to hear a local perspective on a larger scale medium. Practiced by large crowds, from fictional Lee Jordan's Potterwatch in Harry Potter, to Walter Cronkite, it is a fun way to get on the air. Ham radio is subject to laws by the FCC, so there are laws to conduct on the air. If you are looking to get on it for more than emergency broadcasts, you do need a license, and a call sign, which you must use every time you transmit.
Emergency Alert System (EAS)
Required across all broadcasts, including radio, there is an emergency alert system, which is broadcast as a warning to people, wherever they might be.
The news media, which is also required to inform people of emergencies when the EAS system requests it, has a responsibility to inform the public of any catastrophes or evacuations occurring in the area.
In your own community, you can actively listen to the radio, and in some cases tune into police channels. It is useful if you and your family prepared for disasters by keeping two way radios on hand with flashlights, stores of water, and food. Emergency preparedness involves keeping in touch with your family.