Hurricanes from the Atlantics bring high winds and floods that cause damage in the southeastern region including the U.S Coast, Gulf of Mexico, and the western Caribbean Sea. It’s important for law enforcement personnel that are in high-risk areas, where hurricanes can occur, to have plans in place that ensure their communications are not interrupted during a natural disaster.
Hurricane season in the Atlantic is June 1st to November 30th. This is where the formation of hurricanes is most common due to warmth during summer months. September is the most active month because of a climatological peak of activity. The National Weather Service defines a hurricane as “a tropical cyclone with a maximum sustained wind of 74 mph or higher.
Law enforcement, firefighters, and public safety professionals are the first on the front line during these catastrophic events saving lives and helping restore their communities. Emergency response personnel play a key role in many operations after a hurricane has hit. Those operations can include search and rescue, assisting evacuations, and door-to-door checks. They work tirelessly every day to provide safety to towns and neighboring communities affected.
Communication is important between law enforcement and public safety professionals during tropical storms. Law enforcement must be able to communicate with other officers in different locations to ensure emergencies receive the correct attention. Law enforcement is out during storms ensuring the public is safe and helping restore the damage.
Having the proper radio system in place can be very useful during the aftermath of a storm or other emergency. Two-way radios are more reliable and have a quicker response time than cell phones. Preparing for a storm requires you have the right communication equipment before a storm is expected. You don’t want to let your team down out in the field and risk them not being able to converse with other teams such as the Coast Guard during a search and rescue operation.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, wreaking destruction in New Orleans and more states across the coast. In the first twenty minutes, the New Orleans Police Department received six hundred 911 calls. Soon after the police department found it hard to keep up with communication because they didn’t have a clear plan. Officers were not sure who to communicate with and failed to have a backup plan for their radio systems. One officer from the New Orleans Police Department stated, "I think the lack of communications and I think, obviously having no radios, cell phones for an extended time added to the chaos." (The New Orleans Police Emergency Response to Hurricane Katrina)
Two-way radios are the preferred type of communication because they are designed to work when other forms of communication are not available. This way you always have contact with your team and others to effectively handle a hurricane.
Let’s go through things law enforcement should consider to make sure their communication will be uninterrupted before a tropical storm’s approaches.
Why You Should Be Using a Radio During a Hurricane
In an event of a hurricane, you may think that your cell phone will work just fine. Unfortunately, many of the cell networks and internet go down leaving cell phones unavailable for use. Two-way radios are designed to work when other forms of communication don’t.
Radios now come with GPS capabilities, so you are always able to see where a member of your team is. This helps determine their location if they are missing or allow you to respond to an urgent situation quicker. You won’t need to waste precious time locating your team. You’ll know where they are.
Compared to cell phones, which easily damage, radios are durable and built to withstand the damage any emergency can bring. Some radio models like Motorola and Harris are waterproof for a certain amount of time. These IP rated radios work best during a hurricane which brings high levels of standing water.
Make Sure Your Department is Prepared
Keep equipment stocked
Once the National Hurricane Center declares a hurricane watch it’s time to take stock of your two-way communications equipment. Make sure there are enough radios and accessories for each officer to effectively communicate. Provide your law enforcement department with any equipment they need to help their community during a tropical storm. Communicate a plan to your officers of how you will get more supplies like spare batteries or receive only earpieces during an event.
Analyze Your Radio System
Make sure there are no radio dead spots in your community so that everyone can stay connected no matter where they are. Dead spots are areas where radio signals from the repeater are reached but the radio is not able to reach back to the repeater. Evaluate your coverage and ensure all spots don’t have coverage issues. Buildings like parking garages and basements are dead spots that cause radios to not work as effectively.
To help fix this coverage either move to a higher elevation or near a window if possible. Repeaters for your two-way radio can help if you need coverage in a certain location at all times. This boosts your signal and helps get the right message when it is needed. Repeaters allow your radio to transmit a higher wattage than a normal radio.
Use non-rechargeable batteries
How can your team charge batteries during a storm? Most hurricanes leave towns without power for days. With two-way radio batteries only lasting a short amount of time, charging batteries when they are low might not be an option.
After a hurricane, phone lines and electricity are down leaving cell phones practically unusable. Hurricane Sandy was one of the most damaging hurricanes to date, leaving over 780,000 people without power. This was due to high winds knocking down trees and powerlines and flooding electrical stations.
Two-way radios have additional non-rechargeable primary batteries, like ones from Waveband Communications, that are one-time use and do not require recharging. These batteries provide a grab and go convenience leaving you without worrying about battery life and more on saving lives. These batteries can bring older batteries back to life. You can assign these older radios to temporary contracted personnel so more people are connected.
Use Holster for Radio Protection
Are your radio users like volunteer personnel adequately equipped? Radio holsters can protect your five-thousand-dollar investment. These radio holsters protect your radio from becoming broken when they are needed most. Holsters can fit most radio models like the Motorola APX series securely to your side, so you won’t lose or damage the radio.
Law enforcement and public safety professionals are the first people to respond after a hurricane. They save lives and help rebuild after a tragedy. Communication during these times is incredibly important. Without electricity or phone service, two-way radios and non-rechargeable batteries should be a part of your hurricane preparedness plan. You don’t want to be left without the necessary protections your team needs so they can always stay connected.
By taking these steps in procuring essential two-way radio accessories ahead of time and analyzing the overall health of your radio system you can improve the team’s ability to effectively communicate during a natural disaster. Hurricanes can put law enforcement in dangerous situations, have peace of mind that your team can do their very best by providing them with the right communication equipment.
About the Author
Taylor Thomas is a Marketing Manager at First Source Wireless. She has helped law enforcement prepare for disasters and keep communicating with the use of two-way radios. Taylor has attended many conferences including International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO), and International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE).