How to make an emergency communication plan for your family
Current communication plan information
There are a lot of agencies out there that suggest that you make a sound Emergency Communication plan for your family in case disaster strikes but unbelievably, a lot of them don’t tell you how to actually do this, and the ones that do are woefully inadequate. Ready.gov at least gives some information by suggesting that you use the acronym COMMUNICATE:
- Create a family communication plan so you can get in touch with family members. Give copies of contact information and meeting locations to everyone in your family
- Options are available: telephones, cell phones and e-mail are all great ways to get in touch with family members.
- Make sure you know the emergency plan at your child’s school.
- Make a decision about where you will meet in case you can’t get home during an emergency.
- Understand that it may take time to get through to everyone. Try to be patient.
- Needs of your pets should be kept in mind. Keep a pet carrier for easy transport.
- Inform yourself. Watch news broadcasts, read online news updates or listen to a battery-operated radio for official guidance during an emergency, but also prepare in advance.
- Copies of your emergency plan should be in your emergency supply kit in case you need to leave in a hurry.
- Ask kids to discuss their concerns and feelings. Do they understand the family plan?
- Take the kids to visit the “meeting spots” so that they are familiar and feel comfortable finding them on their own if necessary.
- Emergencies take many forms. Categorize different types of emergencies and discuss the level of concern related to each and how that is reflected in your family plan.
That’s better than most but it’s still pretty dumb. You can tell they tried to come up with tenuous connections to each letter to make the acronym fit. It’s better than nothing, but it still doesn’t tell you effective ways of how you can communicate with your family during and after an emergency; it just tells you a few things to consider. Let’s see if we can do better, my Lovelies.
The purposes of emergency communication
There are three main purposes to communicating with someone as part of your Emergency Communication plan:
- To order the initiation or change to a phase of your emergency plan
- To acknowledge or communicate that a phase has begun or changed
- To pass on information as to your status or requirements – a situation report (SITREP)
That should be it. If there’s any other reason you’re communicating, you didn’t prepare your plan well enough. Expect that you haven’t prepared your plan well enough. Your plan needs to be adaptable. Go with the flow, dude. The goal is to plan for everything but you also have to make your plan simple and easy to remember and follow.
If you’re planning for some eventual SHTF scenario such as a natural disaster, EMP/CME event, the collapse of society or the Cubs winning, your communication plan should be an intimate part of your bug out or bug in plan. If you’re just planning for how to communicate with your family in case of something like a fire or car accident or something, your communication plan will look different, but it should fit into the grand plan, Stan.
The Essential Elements of Effective Emergency Communication
There are five objectives for an effective emergency communication plan. I call these my Essential Elements of Effective Emergency Communication. Sounds pretty legit, doesn’t it? To be effective, communication has to be; Clear, Complete, Unambiguous, Concise, and Confirmed. I bet you were expecting another ‘C’ word for unambiguous but I don’t have one. If you come up with one that works and still gets the point across, let me know and I’ll give you all the credit. I kind of like it though. I pronounce it ‘QUQ.’
Just to be complete, let’s make each of these five clear and concise, then you can confirm they’re unambiguous by reading your comments at the end of the page. (Aahh. You noticed me starting to use repetition to get you used to the words so they’re more easily remembered. Can you remember them without looking yet? Here’s a hint – CCUCC. Ok, it’s Clear, Complete, Unambiguous, Concise, Confirmed. STAY WITH ME, PEOPLE!)
Clear – Your communication has to get through somehow and they have to clearly get the message. That means not only hearing it clearly but understanding the intent of your message clearly. Remember, what you mean to say, what you say and what they understood you to say are three different things and if you’re not clear, they won’t be congruent. (we’ll wait here for a sec for the ones in the back who’re looking up the word congruent).
So, by delivering your message clearly by your choice of words and medium, your message gets across clearly. If you’ll notice, I used the word ‘medium.’ I did that on purpose to illustrate a subtle point in communication. Your choice of words, however correct they may be, may not be the most effective. The word ‘medium’ in this case means the method of transmittal of the information – like a phone. As correct as that is, because it’s not a word in general use, it’s not really the best choice to be clear. This is especially importan t if you’re communicating to a person who doesn’t speak the language as fluently as you or through a means of communication that isn’t clear in how it’s sent such as a radio full of static.
Complete – You need to mae sure that you tell the whole story. If you tell someone to meet you at a certain place, you need to tell them the time as well. If you are meeting up with them and they are assuming you have supplies that you don’t, it may be prudent to tell them then so they can adapt. Make sure you give them all the information they need to make informed decisions and not much else.
Unambiguous – Ever had someone tell you to meet you at the Circle-K on Main Street at 4pm and as you sit there waiting, you get a phone call asking where you’re at because they’re at a different circle-K on Main Street? That’s a pretty obvious one there but sometimes communication is confusing in more subtle ways. If you say, “we’ll meet you at the Circle-K at 1956 Main Street at 4pm today.”, that’s more clear but who exactly is ‘we?” Don’t make the assumption that they know who you’re talking about, especially if they aren’t right in front of you for feedback; verbal or non-verbal.
Concise – Once you’ve figured out how to get your message across clearly, you need to make sure it’s as concise as possible. Communications in emergency situations is sometimes spotty and people have other things on their mind such as getting out of danger or performing first aid. You need to make sure your message is as concise as possible – but not at the expense of clarity. If you can say something in fewer words and still get your point across, do it. Especially if you’re communicating over a radio.
Confirmed – When you learned about effective communication skills in school (they still teach that, don’t they?), you learned that feedback is important to make sure they heard and understood what you meant them to. This is extremely important in communicating during an emergency as well because once you break comms, you’ll both be on your merry ways assuming the other is doing things based on the conversation you just had. If your message is understood differently, wouldn’t you want to know that? Nod your head up and down. Good. QUQ.