This is a bit of a follow-up to yesterday’s off-topic article, Reminder: Zello for Cell Phones is not an Actual Walkie-Talkie, and Still Needs Internet Connectivity to Work. I have some experience in emergency communications. I have been a ham radio operator since I was 14 years old and have been involved in a couple of real emergency communications operations as well as in dozens of preparedness drills. This article details the preparedness plans I follow.
As I explained in yesterday’s article, the very popular and sometimes life-saving Zello walkie-talkie app has one big shortcoming: it needs to be connected to the internet in order to work. That connection might be via wi-fi or via a cell phone company’s data connection to a nearby cell tower. Indeed, internet access can be a problem during a hurricane or other disaster when cell towers and wired internet connections alike are knocked offline. However, internet connectivity still remains more reliable than most any other form of communications.
Comment: There is one notable exception: the most reliable communications method during a hurricane or most other disasters is via satellite phones. These phones are not perfect, but they will provide communications in most disasters when wired telephone and cable connections are knocked offline, cell towers are destroyed, and widespread power outages leave most of the area’s communications infrastructure out of operation.
However, satellite phones are expensive to purchase, and the monthly charges (whether you use the phone or not) are so high that few consumers ever purchase them.
In the recent hurricane disasters in Puerto Rico, the Florida Keys, and nearby areas, a hurricane knocked power offline for weeks. Telephone poles were knocked over and cell towers were flattened. Not only were cell towers knocked over, so were towers and roof-mounted antennas of police departments, fire departments, ambulance services, road crews, and most everything else that depends on two-way radios.