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Communication key to post-disaster survival

Matt Hamblen | March 14, 2011
Parts of coastal Japan have been so badly hit by earthquakes and tsunamis in recent days that the only communication about other possible dangers such as radioactive fallout from damaged reactors has been one way, coming to residents through portable, battery-operated FM radios.

Gold said that even with a satellite phone, it might be hard to run a business for a few days after a disaster, just because other businesses would not be operating. The return on investment with a satellite phone is not great, unless the business operates in a critical area, Gold said. "Even if you had a satellite phone, what business would you be able to do anyway?" Gold reasoned. "There won't be any structures and power and your employees won't be able to drive in. FedEx (FDX) could probably take the day off and not have customers complain."

Still, Redman, the Gartner analyst, said companies with mission critical needs must have multiple lines of communications. "The more important the need, the bigger the investment, which can include both terrestrial and satellite services," he said.

For individuals and even business personnel trying to stay in touch, having both outbound and inbound communications might be impossible in a widespread disaster.

Still, getting information from commercial and public TV and radio is still possible with battery- or crank-operated emergency radios, some which cost less than $50.

"Keeping a portable radio around for winter/summer storm power outages is something most people do" in New England, Gold noted.

 

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