During a disaster, whether it is a natural or caused by society, communication will be another important item for you to plan for. Back in the old days (Really just a decade ago) there were pay phones on every corner, and they were a very dependable method to transfer information. Now, most people carry a cellular phone, and rely on apps like Facebook, text messaging and Twitter to communicate with friends and family (isn’t is scary that cell phones are increasingly not used for talking to people). Cellular phones will not handle a large disaster, and depending on them to request help or provide your personal status should not be a priority. Each cell tower can only handle a specific number of connections, and with the way our government has been stomping on our 4th Amendment rights:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The cellular networks can be shut down by this oppressive government, and you need to have alternative methods for communicating.
Have a small portable radio that is battery powered, and preferably with a crank generator, NOAA Weather bands and short ware reception. Emergency Essentials have an affordable model located here. I have a similar model made by Grundig, and I have been happy with it. NOAA Weather channels can inform you of storms close to your region. Short wave reception is useful for getting information from across the USA and at night, (Due to the radio waves ability to bounce off the atmosphere) you can get information from other countries. I’m not saying our government would tell us what they want us to know (I love sarcasm), but it seems other countries news have much more accuracy than our US media that strives to give us unbiased and objective news (more sarcasm, I’m on a roll).
I have a Technicians Class Amateur Radio license, and see the benefit a Ham operator’s ability to relay information great distances. A Technicians License is fairly limited, and I expect to be able to reach other Hams within 8-10 miles from me with a good line of sight. I can transmit using a 2-meter radio in the 144 -148 MHz range. Most areas have a repeater to receive my broadcast, and retransmit my broadcast much further than my license allows. Higher license classes can use more powerful equipment and transmit much further than s 2-meter radio. The radio I have is a Yaesu VX-150 handheld. It is a reliable, tough, and inexpensive radio, and like most radios, can scan band used by emergency officials, so I can monitor my local area.
A CB (Citizens Band) radio has about the same range ability of a 2-meter radio. It does not require a license, which like a online chatroom or forum, allows the occasional jerk to cause trouble.
Another possible communication method is a GMRS/FRS radio. These radios have a range of about 1-2 miles, and have a license requirement ($85.00 fee) on channels 1-8, and channels 9-15 do not have the license requirement. Please do your own research as the rules are not as straightforward as I am implying.
As you can see, there are good choices for keeping contact with family and friends during an emergency. Relying on cellular service is not the best choice for getting valuable weather reports and news when we may need it most. Please comment on your thoughts on how you will stay in communication.