Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Before contacting us with a question, please read the questions that are
most commonly asked below.
- What about the Nextel cell phones with "Direct Connect" radio for emergency communications?
- (This has been the most frequently asked question recently so we've moved it to the top). Direct Connect can be handy in an emergency if the
radio repeaters in the cell towers are still intact and operational. HAM radio (2 meter/70 centimeter band) are the handiest and most frequently used emergency communications, but most people are not ham operators. We recommend GMRS/FRS radios available to everyone. (See Neighborhood Emergency Radio Specification for more information).
Yes, other than ham radio, we have been using the Nextel with Direct Connect for day-to-day operations, but don't advertise it much because our own experience with their customer service in the last year has been miserable. Due to this, we'll be switching cell phone providers in the coming months, and rely on either the cell phone or 2 meter hand-helds
for our own communications. (We will also be using our new nationwide satellite-based pagers with WeatherAlert All-Hazard satellite reception capabilities.
- What exactly is a block/community coordinator?
- An EMCOM block/community coordinator is a person within the community that
serves as a Disaster Preparedness/Recovery coordinator for the area. They
monitor for an pass on notifications/bulletins received from the National Weather Service, major media outlets and emergency management agencies that pertain
to the neighborhood. In businesses, leaders take on the same role for the
company for which they work.
Coordinators also aid their community with preparing for and recovering from
disasters by compiling a neighborhood census of families and pets, and
keeping current and distributing neighborhood rosters, disaster checklists
etc. They are responsible for getting neighborhood headcounts, and passing
on special needs (i.e. handicapped persons in the neighborhood), homes storing
medical or welding oxygen bottles and other hazardous materials to aid
emergency responders in an emergency. They may participate in local neighborhood/crime watch programs and children's safe house programs.
Coordinators that wish to do so are encouraged to participate in CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training. Trained CERT members become the neighborhood's first responders to effect rescues and recovery in emergency situations.
- Is there a fee or dues associated with being a block/community coordinator?
- NO. There is NO cost for joining. Your only costs are the time that you wish to devote, and possibly the cost of paper and copying information
given to the people in your area.
- What if I register, and then decide that I no longer
want to participate?
- No problem. We actually hope that we have more than one person from
each neighborhood participating (backup is a GOOD thing in emergency management) and therefore we would hope that your neighborhood is still represented. Also
by having more than one participant, coordinators can distribute the load based on
their particular knowledge, experience and time available. If you decide not
to participate, simply contact us, and we will remove you from the database.
- Do I need special training or are their education requirements?
- NO. While we welcome participation by people trained in
law enforcement, fire fighting, rescue, First Aid, etc. there is no
special training necessary. Simply a desire and drive to help you neighbors
and/or co-workers. EMCOM will provide on-line materials, checklists and
training to help you coordinate your neighborhood.
- Do I need special hardware or software for my computer?
- NO. The notification/communications system is designed to
operate with most computers, operating systems and internet browsers. If you
are reading this, the system will most likely be able to be activated on your
computer. The main exception is if you are an AOL user. As you may know,
there are numerous internet offerings not available to some AOL browsers.
AOL users will have to minimize their AOL browser once they are on-line, and
then activate another internet browser. Most computers already have Internet
Explorer installed on them, and this will work fine.
- Do I need a "high speed" (i.e. DSL or Cable) connection to the internet?
- NO. Only if you want one. The system will operate with
virtually any speed of internet connection.
- Does the system only receive bulletins, or does it allow 2 way communications?
- The primary aspect of the system allows receiving of notifications/bulletins from various entities within seconds of them being issued. However, for
those agencies that elect to participate, the system also incorporates a 2 way
LIVE communications capability similar to, but substantially more sophisticated
than the LIVE HELPER type customer service systems seen on the internet. As
a block/community coordinator, you will have access to this 2 way system during
- Can I post notifications/bulletins for others to see?
- No, not at this time. The system is designed to allow
coordination/communications of important information between agencies, to
block/community coordinator, the media and the public (on separate channels).
However, we do have plans to implement "neighborhood" channels in the near
future, such that you could issue bulletins to people in your direct
community via the system.
- Do I need to be a computer "techie" to operate the system?
- No. If you navigated your way to read this page, you have
all of the computer skills you will need to operate the system. It would
be helpful in administrative duties if you know how to operate the word
processing software on your computer, but it is not necessary. In the case
of forms and checklists you may need, we'll be posting samples that you can
use by printing them on your printer directly from the internet, and making
copies as required.