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How Can Walkie Talkies Be Used During a Disaster?

Naima Manal

Walkie-talkies are hand-held, two-way radios that have been used for communication during disasters since World War II. In wartime settings, walkie-talkies were the only means of live communication for the troops back to their headquarters.

Since then, walkie-talkies have become popular in the general population because they make possible two-way communication in areas not equipped with phone lines and electricity. Having a walkie-talkie can make a difference in life-threatening emergencies.

In a Disaster

Strategically place emergency kits that contain sets of walkie-talkies in easy-to-access locations. Train your workers in the workplace and your family at home in how to get to the walkie-talkies and use them in a disaster.

Walkie-talkies send messages to one another and don't require a cell tower to relay signals. That makes them more reliable than cellphones in remote areas where it's difficult or impossible to get a signal. More advanced walkie-talkie devices are two-way radios that transmit signals over the Family Radio Service (FRS) of the Federal Communications Commission.

Schools, commercial businesses and public facilities are sometimes required to keep a set of walkie-talkies and extra batteries available for communication during a disaster. Each household should have a set handy as well.

Reach for the emergency kit containing the walkie-talkies when disaster strikes. Turn them on, tune into the radio frequency and try to reach someone on the other end. Give one walkie-talkie to someone in your family or group if your kit has more than one. Make sure the communication line is open between the two walkie-talkies before you split up to find help or to help others in an emergency.

Continue to communicate with the other walkie-talkie user and continue to establish a connection with someone outside the disaster area. Some walkie-talkie units are equipped to access the radio, allowing you to tune into a local radio station for updates in the case of a widespread disaster.

Disaster Recovery

Walkie talkies are a reliable means of communication in disaster recovery. Natural disasters--including floods, wildfires, earthquakes and storms--can cut off communication by severing telephone and electric power lines. In the face of disasters caused by humans--including blackouts, power outages and wars--walkie-talkies allow people to communicate as they strive to find shelter from the disaster.

Use walkie-talkies to help organize people affected by a disaster and to settle large crowds. Station people equipped with walkie-talkies at security points and communicate real-time changes and decisions to keep people safe and to avoid further injuries or security breaches. Maintaining communication by walkie-talkie with the outside world will allow those outside the disaster area to help navigate you to safety and to avoid potential hazards along the way.