What's Your Backup Emergency Communications Strategy?

Have you considered alternate communication strategies for your facilities portfolio in the event of a wide-scale disaster? After Hurricane Maria scoured Puerto Rico, I couldn't get a hold of my family on the island for over a week. Even then, I could only get a brief text to my sister in the capital, sometimes. About a week later, spotty WiFi allowed the rest of my family to ping in, posting on Facebook that they were ok.

Facility managers faced similar communications challenges on the island. One facility manager basically had runners going from facility to facility until the cell phone towers came back online. Another facility manager was able to send out a Facebook message requesting satellite phones, which arrived on the first cargo shipment. Clearly, in the aftermath of the hurricane, communication was a big challenge. 

There's a tech company I've followed for a while which manufactures point-to-point antennas that create a mesh communications network. The product is marketed for use in the backcountry, or for when you're traveling abroad in a group. The antenna pairs with a smartphone or tablet, allowing device to device texting and GPS tracking. Depending on how many nodes are in the mesh you've established, you can get a couple of miles between the ends.

This company sent a bunch of antennas down to Puerto Rico to help facilitate communications while the telecom system was getting back on its feet. As I followed that story, I saw that mesh networks are starting up all over the world with their tech. I bought a pair of antennas to check them out, setting one up as a repeater node for my neighborhood. In their user chat boards, I also saw at least one municipality deploy the antennas during a disaster response drill. Cell towers always get overwhelmed during disasters, making establishing redundant paths of communication a prudent step. 

What is your backup strategy for communications? What's the back up to your backup? What are you going to do when your region's communications backbone is knocked out? No cell phones. No landlines. No WiFi. What then?

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