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Emergency Preparedness Part 7: Out-of-Area Emergency Contacts

[Posted June 18, 2021]

Contributed by Robin Jensen and Patrick Pangburn for Hillsdale NET

This is the seventh in a series of articles brought to you by the Hillsdale Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) and the Hillsdale News. To read earlier installments, click here.

The articles will help you prepare your family and our community for a major natural disaster, as well as share information on Hillsdale NET and what it does. We hope you will stay tuned over the coming months and that you find the content helpful and informative.

To learn more about the NET program or sign up for NET training, visit the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management NET website. There are also many auxiliary volunteer opportunities available with our Hillsdale NET team. Email to find out how you can help.


Imagine a beautiful weekday morning in Portland. Your spouse is away on a work trip and the kids are at school. You have just settled in for some yard work when the ground rumbles and sways beneath your feet. You drop and cover until the shaking stops. You take stock and are uninjured. A quick walk around your home reveals no apparent damage. You are safe at home.

You pick up the phone to call your children’s school. There is no dial tone on your landline. Trying the call on your cell, you get a fast busy signal indicating the lines are overwhelmed. Our schools have plans in place to protect your children. But you want to know that family members are okay.

While local phone lines tend to jam up immediately after a major disaster, long distance calls are more likely to get through on cell networks. Using your cell, you may be able to reach Uncle Joe in Pittsburgh before you reach your sister across town. Remember that text messages are more likely to get through than voice calls.

As part of your family disaster plan you will want to select one or two out-of-town relatives or friends to be a point of contact for all your local family members: “We will all call Aunt Grace in the event of a disaster.” Each of the people in your family knows, when disaster occurs and you are separated, call Aunt Grace.

There are requirements for this plan to work. First, Aunt Grace must be someone who reliably answers her phone. Second, Aunt Grace must agree to this. All in the extended family must know she is the point of contact. Make sure everyone has her current phone number programmed into their cell phone.

Some families may benefit from two points of contact. There may be the Hatfield-side niece and the McCoy-side uncle who both agree to help. Finalize all this in a document and share with the blended family.

Plan a day when you can test this system. Notify Aunt Grace that on March 1 at noon (Pacific Standard Time) family members will each be calling her to assure their phones are programmed correctly to dial her number and that everyone, local and distant, knows what to do in case of a disaster. Aunt Grace can check off names on the document you provide and report back on the success of this drill.

When we are all assured that family are safe and sound, we can begin to clean up or to see what help we can offer our neighbors and the community.


Hillsdale NET wants to know how you connect with your neighbors, as well the geographic boundaries of your local community networks.

Email to share information about the “how” and the “where” of the networks in your immediate neighborhood so we can help ensure that everyone is in the communication loop in an emergency.


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