Crisis Management: Navigating Communication Failures

May 28, 2024

Crisis Management: Navigating Communication Failures


By Daniel Brunner | Chief Operating Officer | Brunner Sierra Group LLC

In times of crisis, effective communication is essential for coordination, safety, and information dissemination. However, what happens when communication channels fail? This article explores strategies to manage and adapt when traditional communication methods such as cell phone towers, handheld radios, AM/FM radio, and satellite communications are compromised.

Understanding the Impact of Communication Failures

Communication failures can occur due to natural disasters, technological failures, cyber-attacks, or other unforeseen events. The immediate impact is often confusion, misinformation, and a potential delay in critical response efforts. Therefore, having a plan in place for such scenarios is crucial.

Strategies for Managing Communication Failures

1. Establishing Redundant Communication Channels

Why it matters: Redundancy ensures that if one method fails, others are available to maintain communication.

  • Satellite Phones: Unlike cell phones, satellite phones rely on satellites, making them a reliable alternative when cell towers are down.
  • Ham Radios: Ham radio operators can communicate over long distances without relying on cell towers or the internet. Training and licensing are required, but they provide a robust backup.
  • Walkie-Talkies and CB Radios: For short-range communication, these devices are useful within a community or organization. Ensure that everyone knows the designated channels and protocols.

2. Pre-Designated Meeting Points

Why it matters: In the absence of electronic communication, having pre-arranged meeting points ensures that individuals can regroup and share information.

  • Local Landmarks: Choose easily recognizable landmarks as meeting points.
  • Emergency Shelters: Identify local emergency shelters as designated gathering spots.
  • Community Centers: Establish community centers or other local hubs as information and coordination points.
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3. Analog Methods

Why it matters: When digital methods fail, analog methods like printed maps and handwritten notes become invaluable.

  • Printed Maps and Directories: Ensure that everyone has access to printed maps and important contact information.
  • Bulletin Boards: Use public bulletin boards to post updates and information.
  • Flyers and Notices: Distribute flyers with essential information and instructions.

4. Building a Network of Runners

Why it matters: In the absence of electronic communication, using people to relay messages (runners) can keep information flowing.

  • Trained Volunteers: Train volunteers to act as messengers during crises.
  • Designated Routes: Establish clear routes for runners to follow to minimize confusion and delays.

Preparing for Communication Failures

Preparation is key to effectively managing communication failures. Here are steps to take before a crisis occurs:

1. Training and Drills

Conduct regular training sessions and drills to ensure everyone knows the communication plan and can execute it under stress.

2. Community Engagement

Engage with your community to build awareness and cooperation. Community-wide participation increases resilience and response efficiency.

3. Emergency Kits

Include communication tools in your emergency kits, such as spare batteries, solar chargers, and backup communication devices.

Communication failures during a crisis can be daunting, but with preparation and a multi-faceted approach, it is possible to maintain effective coordination and information flow. By establishing redundant communication channels, setting pre-designated meeting points, utilizing analog methods, and building a network of runners, you can navigate the challenges posed by communication breakdowns and ensure the safety and well-being of your community.