Preparing: Communications Tools

April 27, 2011  //  

Today, technology offers organizations an array of communications tools, each of which can be essential during an emergency. When selecting a device, some factors that should be taken into consideration include:



  • The number of employees/users.

  • Coverage and geographical territory (terrain types, size of area and availability and strength of signal).

  • Cost.

  • Integration with other technology.

  • Frequency of use.

  • Stability of the technology: Is this a new technology, or one that has become established?

While new communications technologies are constantly being developed, the list below represents the most commonly used communications tools, from telephones to Voice over Internet Protocol technology. Keep in mind that many of these technologies might be compromised during an emergency, due to power outages. For example, a cellular phone might work fine for a while, but eventually its battery will have to be recharged. Also, during an emergency cell phone towers might be overextended, resulting in service interruption. It’s best to have multiple tools so that if one fails, another can be used as a backup.



  • Landline telephones: A stable, reliable technology that still remains the most prevalent form of communication in business today.

  • Facsimile devices: Fax machines rely on the same networks as traditional telephone services. While they are nearly indispensable in the business world, they might quickly become compromised during an emergency.

  • Cellular (mobile) phones: Make sure that your service provider is equipped to provide uninterrupted service in the case of a major emergency. Depending on the needs of your organization, features such as text messaging, broadband e-mail and Web access and built-in digital cameras might be worth investigating.

  • Pagers: Pagers are somewhat limited in comparison to cell phones. However, signal strength might be more reliable. Pagers with text capabilities offer a second layer of functionality.

  • E-mail: Nearly instant communication has changed business forever. However, during an emergency e-mail service could be interrupted due to power outages. Even if your business has power, if your e-mail server is in a different location, there might be power interruptions there.

  • Wireless e-mail/broadband devices (e.g., BlackBerry™): While these are excellent tools for maintaining communications during most circumstances, they are prone to many of the same faults as e-mail and cellular phone services – the need to recharge batteries, the reliance on satellite signal towers and e-mail server networks.

  • VoIP: Voice over Internet Protocol enables users to place telephone calls over an Internet connection. This technology can help companies to lower its telephone costs by reducing the need or use of the traditional landline. Read more about this technology at the FCC Web site. [external link — will open in a new browser window]

  • Two-way radios: These inexpensive, wireless, portable devices offer instant communication over small distances (usually five miles or less).

  • CB radio: Citizens Band Radio Service is a private two-way voice communication service with a communications range from one to five miles.

  • Amateur (“ham”) radio groups: A community of people that use radio transmitters and receivers to communicate with other amateur radio operators. They are licensed by the federal government. If someone in your organization is a ham radio operator, this could be an excellent way to communicate important information during an emergency. Read more about amateur radio and licensing procedures at the FCC Web site. [external link — will open in a new browser window]

Make sure that regular checks of communications equipment are made and that all communications information (phone numbers, e-mail address, etc.) are updated on a regular basis and available to all employees.

Be ready. Be willing to help.

Virginia Disaster Relief Fund