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Out-of-State Contact--Debunking the Technology Aspect

Out with the phone, in with social media.

by Eric Holdeman / September 10, 2015

For the last 25 years I, along with most other emergency managers, have told people to have an out-of-state contact. The basic premise we have given is that it is much more likely that in a post-disaster environment, you could get a long distance line more easily than a local telephone line.

Not that technology has changed over that time period -- but, it has significantly. I've contacted several techie friends who are telecommunications experts and/or know others in the business and the premise that you can get a long distance voice line more easily than a local one is not true. For that matter, not many people still have the old-style home line. Even with something hanging on the wall or sitting on a desk as a paperweight, it is likely today to be a voice over IP phone connection.

Which brings me back to the concept of having an out-of-state contact. That still remains a great idea and something we should promote. The first thing people think about when a disaster strikes is, "Are my family and the people I love OK?" Until you can get that question answered, there will be anxiety-filled minutes, hours and perhaps days.

I support having the "one person" who does not live in the potential disaster zone be known by everyone so they know who to contact. They in turn can inventory who has checked in and let everyone else know that people are OK.

Given the deep penetration of social media in today's 21st century, I think it should no longer be a phone contact we are promoting, but the use of social media to post messages. Perhaps it is everyone just posting to their personal Facebook or other social media site to give their status. Or, everyone knows to to go Aunt Cheryl's Facebook page and do the same there. Thus it is all in one place.

Sending data over a wireless carrier is much more likely to get through than trying to make a voice call.  

Let's keep promoting the concept of an out-of-state contact, but also get the reasons for doing so right and also promote those tools that are more likely to succeed.

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