Who you gonna text? Aunt Bep!

By Joe Dougherty

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Jan. 29 2012 5:21 p.m. MST

Editor's note: This article is part of a series on earthquake preparation. Read the rest of the articles here.

When Mother Nature decides to give Utah the magnitude 7 earthquake we’ve been waiting and preparing for, we expect to have a really hard time communicating.

I’m sorry. Did I say really hard? I meant really, really hard. Imagine that cellphone towers cease functioning or become overloaded with local phone calls. We’ll see the same thing with land lines. How, then, do you check on your loved ones? It seems like it could be nearly impossible. For a time, it could be impossible.

But if you make a family communications plan, each of you will know what to do when the phones don’t work and when they do.

Making a plan doesn’t sound as alluring as building a bunker or stockpiling ammo, but it’s the critical first step to preparing for disaster. As the April 17 statewide earthquake drill — the Great Utah ShakeOut, now with nearly 560,000 participants — approaches, I’m bringing you something you can do each week to be ready for an emergency. Share this information with your friends and neighbors, especially as you take steps to be prepared.

The Deseret News, Emergency Essentials and Be Ready Utah created an emergency preparedness guide that will be sent to schools and was distributed to Deseret News subscribers on Jan. 24. The guide, found on DeseretNews.com or by clicking here, leads you through the steps to emergency planning.

Here’s what each person needs:

  • A card to carry at all times with important information. In a long-term power outage, cellphones will eventually die, taking contact information with them. Print and laminate these cards, or groups can request them by emailing bereadyutah@utah.gov.
  • If cellphones are working, try texting first. Texting uses far less bandwidth than a phone call.
  • Have an out-of-state contact. You might be able to text your Aunt Bep in New Jersey before you can call your cousin in Logan. Make sure that person understands his or her role of coordinating family information.
  • Designate family meeting places. This can work in a variety of emergencies. If you had a fire at home, the family meeting place might be at a neighbor’s home. But what if you’re not at home when an emergency happens? Parents might be at work, children at school. Talk to your school about its emergency plans.
  • Practice your plans. Test them from time to time so your actions will be automatic in an emergency.
With just 11 weeks until the ShakeOut, we still have a lot to do to get ready.
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