Inauguration Day: Would You Be Prepared for a Communications Blackout?

by Toby Cowern

Recent events have made us aware that the potential for communications interruptions or blackouts is undoubtedly on the rise. What a lot of people are now realizing, unfortunately, is that access to certain communications platforms is not a right and is not guaranteed. Many people have recently become comfortable with using only a few platforms for the vast majority of their communications.

And in normal times, that’s okay. But we must have contingency and backup plans for alternative means of communication. These times are anything but normal. While we certainly hope that Jan. 20th is peaceful tensions in the United States are running high. It would not be outside the realm of possibility for a communications blackout to occur on Inauguration Day.

Are you prepared for that possibility?

Pillar #5: Communications and Signaling

Today let’s look at a specific pillar of The Seven Pillars of Urban Preparedness.

We advocate the growth of our Seven Pillars evenly and uniformly. What that means is not fixating on any one pillar to the detriment of the others. However, different pillars will come more into focus, as circumstances dictate.

We imagine, in the last few weeks, if not months, the medical and hygiene pillar has been of particular interest and concern for people. It has probably been the area hitting the hardest recently due to the basic message of the pandemic: wash your hands, keep your distance, etc.

But what I want to share today is our communications and signaling pillar.

Recently we’ve seen a mass movement, understandably, of people downloading certain apps, Telegram and Signal being the two most prominent. Back at the beginning of the pandemic, we’d already named and endorsed those for people to use as alternative communications. But not just those two exist. There is a multitude of communications apps, not only for the phone but also for additional communication methods. It is definitely wise to look at your options.

I had an interesting conversation yesterday going all the way back to landlines. Who has a landline anymore? That’s a great question. Maybe you don’t have a landline, or more likely, you just don’t have the phone plugged into the landline anymore. There is probably a landline coming into your house, you just haven’t used it for a while. That landline can be a great thing to dust off and check out. Contact your telecommunications provider. Better yet, go buy a cheap phone and plug it in and dial your mobile to see if it works.

Once you’ve done that you will have the number for your landline on your mobile phone. Call that number back from your mobile and see if it works. If it does work, of course, make sure you share that number with people.

Another option is ham radio. Do you have your license and your equipment? Learn more about it here.

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What if you have no access to communications?

Something that’s often overlooked is having a “no-communication plan.”

What happens if you become limited in your communications ability, or the communications you have are no longer working?

For example, back in 2007, after the London Underground bombings, an entire sector of the cellular network was shut down for security for some period of time. The technology to do that absolutely exists. And it’s definitely embedded within the software platforms.

It is not unreasonable to think there can be a complete communications blackout on a regional or larger scale. The danger there is the panic associated with it. Once people can’t communicate, they start to panic.

If you do not have a plan, now is the perfect time to create one. Make sure you’ve got hard copies of the details of those plans. As I mentioned in my previous article, there should be a walk-through-talk-through so that everybody knows what the plan is, where the details are kept and how it’s gonna work.

If you have a plan for what can happen if you can’t communicate and have shared that plan with people it will help stave off panic. Your plan helps you manage the stress of the situation. People will think, ” Okay. I can’t get in touch with anyone right now. But in advance I let people know where I was, what my movements are, and what my intention is in the event of a disaster or a compromise situation. I’m going to move from here to here, or I’m going to sit tight.” By doing this it helps relax people a little bit because they will have a better idea of what’s going on with individuals and loved ones that are of concern to them.

January 20th: Be Prepared

I am not going to label January 20th as exceptionally special. However, I absolutely anticipate there could be communications, glitches, if not blackouts associated with the inauguration in the United States and beyond. I want to make it clear, we don’t want to fixate on a specific scenario.

This is simply something you should have factored in already as a basic possibility. No matter the circumstances that drive it, you should already have these alternative communication plans, and a no communication plan.

What we’re highlighting today is this,: dust it all off if you’ve got it and check that everything is still working and the numbers are still valid.

What are your plans?

Do you have a no-communication plan? Are you ready to implement one now? Let us know in the comments below.

About Toby

Toby has an extensive background in the military, emergency services, risk management, and business continuity, combined with applied wilderness and urban survival skills. He discusses personal safety, security, and the crossover of military skills to the average civilian. He is the co-author of SHTF Survival Boot Camp.


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