Communication in an Emergency

Communication in an Emergency

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

Try text messaging on your mobile 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 available for telephone calls.

Making use of email and 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.

The use of "out of area" contacts is another effective way to communicate. 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.


  • 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.
  • 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 possible.
  • Put your "out of area" contact number in your mobile phone 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 BC 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 loved ones via text message or email to report in where you are and where you plan to be.
  • If able, call your out-of-area contact and report in. Find out if other family members have checked in. Indicate when you will try calling again. Keep your calls short.