Communicating in an Emergency

Overview  l  Before  l  During  l  After  l  References & Links



After a disaster you will want to confirm that your family and friends are safe. It may be difficult to make local telephone or cellular calls because of the damage to infrastructure and  the sheer volume of people calling.

Try text messaging on your cell phone. A text message may get through even when the voice component of the cellular network is congested. Short text messages are sent via the cell-site control channel, which is always available, rather than over the limited number of voice channels that are available for telephone calls.

Making use of e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites are also part of a good emergency communication plan. You can predefine who you want to contact with your status. In recent disasters, these methods have proven to be excellent ways to communicate.

Utilizing "out of area” contacts are another effective method of communicating. Although local phone systems may be "tied-up" after a disaster, long distance circuits are often unaffected and can be used effectively to check on your loved ones. Pre-selected "out-of-area" contact/s can be your “message board”. You are able to check on the location and status of your loved ones.



  • Ask a relative or friend who lives out-of-province to be your "out of area" contact. This person will be your "message board" after an emergency or disaster. Do not pick someone on Vancouver Island or on the west coast to California.
  • Print and complete an Out of Area Contact Card with your contact's name and phone number for each family member to carry in their wallet, purse, or backpack. Obtain two contacts if you are able.
  • Put your "out of area" contact number in your cell phone's contact list as well. The stress of a disaster event may make it difficult to remember routine phone numbers.
  • Tell your family and friends who live outside B.C. to call your "out of area" contact to share information about you and your family after a disaster. This will help to relieve some of the congestion on the local telephone system.



  • You may not hear from anyone within the first several hours following a disaster. It could take up to 24 hours or longer for a family member to get access to a phone line.
  • When it is safe to do so, try contacting love ones via text messaging or email to report how you are, where you are, and where you plan to be.
  • If able, call your "out of area" contact and report how you are, where you are, or where you plan to be. Find out if other family members have checked in. Indicate when you will try calling again.
  • Keep your calls short.




References & Links