Comms Recommendations for Neighborhood Emergency Preparedness?

I live in the East Bay area of CA. Several years ago I collected the names and contact information of about 60 individuals on my block for a city-sponsored community emergency response program I took part in.

* Last week, workers hit an underground gas line on my block. Our family bugged out and I struggled to communicate with just a few other neighbors about the situation.

* This week, a 3-alarm fire began in close proximity to a gas station a mile from home. I got the word out via text and email to all the contacts I had, but not as quickly as I’d have liked.

* This weekend, we are expecting hot, dry winds: extreme fire danger.

Do any of you have recommendations for decent (and free?) electronic communications systems or protocols that you’d implement in such circumstances? I want to protect my neighbors from having their contact information stolen or otherwise compromised, and I’d like to be able to share vital information quickly.

Maybe you know how to set up a phone tree and would share that process with me. 

My partner has a license for Ham Radio comms, but I don’t. Further, I think that ham isn’t a viable option for most folks around here. While the power’s on, I feel like SMS/email/phone are the best options; I am open to–and grateful for–your opinions on the matter.


  • Comments (1)

    • 7

      The problem with communicating with other people in this type of situation is that both (or more) parties have to be willing and able to monitor for incoming messages.  If you are talking about the immediate meighborhood around you, consider audio/visual signals as in your own warning flag on your house or a loud siren that you can set off to alert people that there is an event going on.  Of course, this might create problems for you too, especially with an audio alarm system since you probably will have neighbors who simply don’t want to have a siren going off.  In any case, once your neighborhood is aware that there is a local event going on they can turn up their situational awareness sensitivity meter and determine what the problem is.  You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.