Start Your Communications Plan

Get Ready for Extreme Weather: Week 8

Start Your Communications Plan

car in snow

In the next 4 emails, we will look at communications. How will you communicate with family and friends in an emergency situation? Devices can get wet or run out of power. Cell phone towers can become overloaded and transmit intermittently or not at all. What if your home is without power? Expect difficulties and plan ways to work around them – and make sure everyone in your family knows the plan. This may be the single most important preparedness step you can take.


  • Landlines
    • If you have a landline and usually use a cordless phone, make sure you also have a phone with a cord somewhere in the house. Cordless phones need more electricity than they can get from the phone jack in the wall. They will stop working. Corded phones will continue to work if the electricity is out.
    • UNLESS you are a CenturyLink subscriber and you switched your internet/TV service to fiber optic cable. In that case, they also switched out your phone and it will go down at the same time your internet goes down.
    • If you don’t have a landline, ask around and see if any of your neighbors do (and have a corded phone). Ask if you can make calls from their phone in case of an emergency.
  • Cell Phones
    • Make sure you have several phone charging options. Get a charger for your car, or a solar charger – lots of models available and relatively cheap. (You may want to get a more powerful charger so you can also charge your laptop or tablet (see some examples at Real Goods)*. The Biolite company offers two charging options – a small, portable solar panel and power from a small wood-fired camp stove.)
    • Keep a backup phone in your car – one not attached to a calling plan. As explained in an earlier email, you can make an OUTGOING emergency 911 call on any cell phone, even one without a provider or a phone number. If you do not have a backup cell phone, contact us to see if we have a donated phone you can take.
    • In an emergency situation, transmitters can become jammed. If you cannot get through with a phone call, try a text message. Make sure everyone in your family network knows how to send and receive text messages – even great-grandma!

Phone Directories

Create a written phone directory that you keep at home for anyone who might need it – the babysitter, visiting family members, children. FEMA has a directory template here. You may want to customize it to include all the numbers that may need to be called in case of emergency: doctors, dentists, veterinarians, school and daycare, pet sitter, workplaces, plumber, electrician, etc. Make sure each of your kids (and the babysitter or pet-sitter) knows where this list is kept.

Kids and Emergency Calls

Talk to your kids about how and when to dial 911. See this resource for teachers: 911 for Kids.

Phone Trees

In case of emergency, who needs to be called and who will call who? You may want to ask someone outside the area to be a communications coordinator. Everyone knows to call that person. Practice some different emergency scenarios and then determine who and how you will communicate.

Write it down! It’s the first step in your Family Communications Plan.

Tasks This Week

  • Access landline/corded phone
  • Have cell phone chargers
  • Backup phone for car
  • Create phone directory/phone tree
This email series is brought to you by neighborhood volunteers at Transition Longfellow. It is designed to help you become more prepared for extreme weather emergencies. Transition Longfellow does not endorse or recommend any of the products mentioned in this email series. Neither Transition Longfellow nor Transition Twin Cities receives any compensation for products mentioned on their websites. Products are mentioned for illustration purposes only.