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Power Grid Communication Failure Preparedness

how to communicate if the grid goes down

Ever wondered how to communicate if the grid goes down?

In today’s digitally connected world, the thought of losing all means of electronic communication is daunting, to say the least.

But don’t worry – I’ve got you covered.

In this post, we’ll explore practical, no-nonsense strategies to keep in touch with loved ones and stay informed, even when modern conveniences fail us.

From the simplicity of using walkie-talkies to the ingenuity of setting up a ham radio, we’ll dive into methods that are not just theories but real-life savers.

Plus, I’ll share some quick and easy tips to prep your communication toolkit, ensuring you’re always one step ahead.

Ready to become a post-grid communication pro?

Let’s get prepping!

Power Grid Shutdown

A grid is a network for delivering electricity from the producer, which is your electric company running power stations to your home via elaborate transmission lines. So if the power grid goes down, water and natural gas may also likely go down at some point, so planning is critical.

Without a plan, many of us would be in a bad situation with an extended grid outage.

 

What Happens If The Power Grid Goes Down

Well, I think you know what happens. If you have a well for your water supply, you can not run the pump for water. If you need electricity for a stove, you are not cooking. If you have light bulbs, you could do nothing without electricity to get them up and glowing. And if you own a cell tower, you get the idea.

How to communicate with your loved ones or emergency services if the grid goes down will be first and foremost on your mind. Not turning on those lights.

No matter the reason for the situation, it’s important that you have a family plan in place before any crisis to make hooking up after a disaster easy and to avoid any unnecessary hair-pulling in the meantime.

Off-Grid Communication

So if you want to use a cellphone for off-grid communication, you might be in luck. You should test out the network coverage in your area first. If you live in a remote area, there’s a good chance you’ll have limited or no network coverage. Texting might work in some situations.

I remember after Hurricane Wilma came through town. My cell phone was very limited, but my friend, who was on a different network, had none. So it might come down to a coin-toss situation.

How To Communicate Without Cell Service

First and foremost, you should have a basic and simple means to know what is happening in your neighborhood. And that calls for the old-fashioned transistor radio. How clever is that?

A decent working radio (fresh batteries) will let you know the severity of your current situation surrounding you. News broadcasts will inform you of what and when power may be restored and emergency service situations. And they will tell you if you should stay in place or get out of town.

Suppose it is safe to do so.

Now, you can focus on getting in touch with those who matter.

An Amateur Radio is the other radio you should have on your bucket list when communicating with others when the grid goes down. The HAM radio is one of the oldest and best methods for effective communication after a crisis situation. 

It is the method FEMA uses to communicate much-needed information during emergencies and is also used by your local shelters, police, and fire stations.

It is regulated by the FCC, and if you wish to have and use one, you have to be registered with a valid license.

Other Emergency Communication Devices

Satellite CB Radio 

Whatever the crisis is down here, it’s not happening up there. Relying on satellites these phones work during disasters because they rely on satellites rather than standard telecommunication networks. Think Sirius Radio or your Garmin Navigator in your car. They work when you are driving in the middle of nowhere, and your cell phone does not. 

But……they can be expensive to own and also operate. You not only need to purchase the phone itself but also a subscription service where you will be charged by the minute of use. Anywhere from $0.15 to $2 per minute. And in some countries, they are illegal. However, they will get the job done. That job is communicating after the grid goes down.

Best Walkie-Talkies For Preppers

These work great, providing the person you want to get in touch with has the matching one you have. (same frequency). Also, they have to be in range of each other. I’m not talking about a walkie-talkie setup from the toy section of Walmart but a high-quality type that can have a range of up to 100 miles.

A best on a budget would be a MOTOROLA Talkabout T402 Two-Way Radios and a best of the best would be a BTECH DMR-6X2 Dual Band Two-Way Radio.

When it comes down to How To Communicate If The Grid Goes Down, walkie-talkie radios are the most dependable form of emergency communication. I highly advise that you are prepared to utilize more than one form of communication to stay in touch with those you care about.

Off Grid Phonescommunicating off the grid

Well, sort of. How about a good old-fashioned landline phone? Yes, I still have one, specifically for the emergency situations I may encounter in South Florida.

Hurricanes.

Cell phones can crap out. Power can be down. But that landline always seems to work because they are not dependent on towers or the electric company.

And if you are lucky and have some change in your pocket, you might find a pay phone. They still exist. It might be a good idea to locate one in your neighborhood. I have access to one about a mile down the road.

Lucky me….. I will not have to take that walk because I have my own landline.

Cyber Attacks Today

As if Mother Nature is not enough to worry about, we sometimes deal with cyber attacks. And for the most part, it will all come down to money.

“Most cyber attacks today are financially motivated.”

Kevin Perry

Former director of critical infrastructure protection, Southwest Power Pool

DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm in June told CNN that enemies of the United States can shut down the U.S. power grid, and “there are very malign actors trying, even as we speak.”

Critical infrastructure systems like those driving power generation, water treatment, electricity production, and other platforms are interconnected to form the energy “grid.” Although beneficial to the public, this grid is vulnerable to cyber-attack by “hacktivists” or terrorists……….read on for the rest of the story….

How To Prepare For Power Grid Failure

As  I mentioned before, the power grid can go down for multiple reasons, so it is best to be prepared beyond the reasoning of how you will communicate if the grid goes down in your neck of the woods.

Here are six basic things to consider before you need to consider them. Before, not after the crisis, when everyone else is going to the closest grocery store with urgency and cash to see how much of their clean-out-the-store list they can get. Too late for most.

  • Lighting-What will you do with no electricity when it gets dark out there? Have flashlights with working batteries? How about battery-operated lanterns? Or fuel-operated lanterns. Have the fuel stashed away? Candles work, too if you’re careful with them. Don’t forget the matches.
  • Batteries-Have extra batteries in the junk drawer. You don’t know how long power will be out, and you might need more batteries than you originally thought. The ones you have in those flashlights might be dead. And remember those cell phones (if they are working). You won’t have backup batteries for them, so don’t use the cell phone for gaming or watching movies. Save that battery charge. 
  • Water-Have a decent supply of water on hand. If you get your water from a home well that’s not working without power. You should have ample water on hand always. Stored in containers for flushing toilets and bottles for drinking. City water users will not have a problem unless the utility company does. Contaminated water could be one of those problems. Have drinking water on hand. Always.
  • A backup Power-A generator would be a good item to have for power grid failure preparedness. Just make sure it’s outside, and you have a gas supply for it. Gas stations will most likely be closed due to no power or those last-minute people wiping out the supply.
  • Food-You gotta eat. You should always have a supply of non-perishable food to keep you and your family fed for at least three days. If you think of that now, don’t be surprised when you go to the supermarket and see empty shelves.
  • Refrigerators and Freezers, the power is out, and you do not have a generator, keep those doors closed. You do not want to lose all their food due to spoilage.

How To Communicate Before The Grid Goes Down

It is all about Emergency Preparedness.

It is taking action before a crisis happens and well before your neighbors do. You do not want to be competing or much less physically fighting them for what’s left on the supermarket shelves or gas at the local station.

You will not want to be begging someone for the use of whatever communication device they might have to get in touch with your loved ones.

Regarding communication devices, research what will work best for you and your pocketbook. 

So, take that first step: check your emergency kit, or perhaps buy that first handheld radio.

Your journey towards effective communication in times of uncertainty begins now – and trust me, you’ve got this!

Do it now before the crisis hits the fan.

Don’t be stuck with this:

poor communication after the grid goes down
 
 
 

FAQ

What are the most effective ways to communicate when the grid goes down?

  • Handheld Radios: Ideal for short-range communication, especially walkie-talkies.
  • Satellite Phones: Provide connectivity even without traditional network support.
  • Battery-Powered or Solar-Powered Devices: Ensure ongoing communication capability.
  • Flares and Signal Mirrors: For visual signaling over distances.
  • Messengers: Using individuals to physically carry messages.

How can I prepare my family for communication challenges in grid-down scenarios?

  • Develop a Communication Plan: Include meeting points and contact methods.
  • Educate on Equipment Use: Teach family members how to use radios, satellite phones, etc.
  • Regular Drills: Conduct practice drills to ensure everyone understands the plan.
  • Keep Emergency Contacts Handy: Write an old-fashioned list (pen to paper) of important contacts and addresses.
  • Backup Power Sources: Store batteries, solar chargers, or hand-cranked chargers.

What are the advantages of using handheld radios during a grid outage?

  • Independence from Cellular Networks: Operate without relying on cell towers.
  • Durability and Portability: Typically rugged and easy to carry.
  • Ease of Use: Simple for all family members to operate.
  • Affordability: Generally less expensive than other communication devices.
  • Instant Communication: Allows for real-time conversation within a certain range.

Are satellite phones a viable option for emergency communication?

  • Global Coverage: Function in remote areas where cellular service is unavailable.
  • Reliability: Less likely to be affected by local infrastructure damage.
  • Direct Connection to Emergency Services: Some models offer dedicated emergency call buttons.
  • Cost Consideration: More expensive than traditional phones, both in hardware and service plans.

How can solar-powered devices aid in communication during grid failures?

  • Sustainable Power Source: Harness solar energy, reducing dependency on electricity.
  • Charging Capability: Can charge phones, radios, and other small devices.
  • Longevity: Useful during prolonged outages where other power sources may deplete.
  • Portability: Many solar chargers are designed for easy transportation.

What role do community communication plans play in emergency situations?

  • Centralized Information Sharing: Designate community centers for information distribution.
  • Neighborhood Watch Programs: Utilize local groups for safety and communication.
  • Resource Pooling: Share communication devices and power sources.
  • Local Emergency Response Coordination: Align with local emergency services for effective response.

How can I set up an emergency communication network in my neighborhood?

  • Identify Key Individuals: Assign roles for coordination and information dissemination.
  • Distribute Communication Tools: Radios or other devices to key points in the neighborhood.
  • Establish a Communication Protocol: Define how and when to communicate.
  • Regular Meetings and Drills: Ensure everyone understands
  • the plan and their role in it.

How can technology like battery-powered devices help in grid-down situations?

  • Continuous Operation: Keep devices running when traditional power sources fail.
  • Flexibility and Mobility: Allow for communication on the move.
  • Rechargeable Options: Use with solar chargers or hand-cranked chargers.
  • Diverse Device Support: Power a variety of devices, from radios to smartphones.
  • Emergency Features: Some devices come with built-in flashlights, SOS signals, etc.

Where can I find training and resources for emergency communication?

  • Local Emergency Services: Participate in training offered by fire departments, police, or community centers.
  • Online Courses and Webinars: Many organizations offer online emergency communication training.
  • Amateur Radio Clubs: Join local clubs for practical experience and learning.
  • Government Resources: FEMA and other government agencies provide resources and guides.
  • Survival and Preparedness Forums: Online communities and forums offer tips and shared experiences.
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