It goes without saying that open lines of communication with residents is especially critical during disasters and emergencies, but what is lesser known is that Flagler County Emergency Management trains regularly with seemingly old-school methodology for cutting-edge results.
“Staff is working with volunteers, amateur radio operators, neighboring Emergency Management agencies (currently St. Johns, Volusia, Marion, and Putnam), and the Florida Division of Emergency Management to test multiple backup communication tools,” said Emergency Management Director Jonathan Lord. “These will be used when traditional communication tools, like the phone and the Internet, are down because of an emergency or disaster.”
The backup communications toolbox includes resources, such as:
- Shared Resources High Frequency Radio, which is a federal government program that allows national security and emergency preparedness agencies to communicate even when landline and cellular communications are unavailable.
- Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System which is a unified statewide digital radio network that allows for radio voice communications between certain emergency response agencies.
- General Mobile Radio Service is a publicly available FCC licensed radio service that is widely used by families and volunteer organizations, with the most common use of the channels being for short-distance, two-way voice communications using hand-held radios, mobile radios and repeater systems.
- Amateur Radio, also known as ham radio, has been around since 1890, and is capable of bringing people together to talk across town, around the world, and even into space – all without the Internet or phones.
Additionally, staff tested and trained using satellite phones, email, and standard telephone systems.
“This training – which we are going to do monthly – is crucial for ensuring preparedness,” Lord said. “We have to regularly exercise our capabilities and test the equipment so that we know we are ready.”