Make a Plan
Print out the Emergency Contact Card to help guide you. Write down your local emergency numbers and the contact information for an out-of-area emergency contact person. As often happens during disasters, it may be easier to text or call long distance since local phone lines may be overloaded or out of service.
Putting a plan in place can help families stay connected with loved ones nearby and overseas, should an emergency strike. Every year, people are separated from their relatives in an emergency, such as an earthquake, typhoon or armed conflict. Telephone, Internet and postal services are often disrupted, leaving loved ones miles or oceans apart with no way to communicate.
Tips to keep in mind in case you can’t reach a loved one during an emergency:
- Call during off-peak hours or send text messages, which can often work even if telephone lines are down.
- Check social networking profiles, such as Facebook or Twitter.
- Contact employers, schools or religious centers where loved ones might go.
- Use a free Internet-based tool, such as Safe and Well at www.redcross.org, to send or search for messages from loved ones within the U.S.
- Reach out to the U.S. State Department (1-888-407-4747) to inquire about loved ones with U.S. citizenship who are traveling or residing in another country.
The Red Cross also offers a free service to help re-establish communication between immediate relatives separated internationally by a war or disaster, and this past year helped reconnect more than 4,200 families.
Local caseworkers work with families to find loved ones and send messages until normal communications can be restored. In places like refugee camps, such a message is often the only method of communication available, but the words “I am alive” may be all that is needed to ease the minds of distraught relatives half a world away.