The Global Simulated Emergency Test (GlobalSET), on Saturday, April 18, 2009 from 1100-1500 UTC will be an example of how individual volunteers can co-ordinate together to prepare for disasters and emergency situations on a global scale.1GlobalSET has it's roots in Civil Defense Organizations such as and has since the 1930's expanded to include specialists in deferent areas such as radio communications, emergency evacuations, disaster relief, and emergency broadcast systems. As a result, co-ordination between different groups has become more difficult for practice purposes, and individual groups tend to set their own agendas and schedules.
(Image of an SAGE ENDEC emergency broadcast receiver.)
Organizations such as FEMA, The Red Cross, ARRL, The National Emergency Management Association, NOAA, and NORAD, each set up either random or pre-schedule test runs of their response times and simulated scenarios for disasters and emergencies. Even the FCC is in on the act with their monthly EBS test over every radio station, and Television network, I'm sure you've been watching your favorite show when it gets interrupted by a broadcast with a high pitched whistle and those infamous words “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System ...” for those of us that grew up during the heart of the cold war, our hearts still skip a beat every time that sound is heard, it original meant the warning of a nuclear attack from our then enemies the Russians, similar to the sirens heard in London during air raids in WW2.
The various systems in place tend to fail however. During 9/11 the EBS wasn't activated, in 2005, 2007, and 2008 it was accidentally triggered2. Other forms of emergency communications are not able to cope with large scale situations. During 9/11 police and other emergency organization lost approximately one third of all radio messages in New York City, 3 part of the reason for this is the close proximity of radio users to each other during the crisis4.
Survivalist need to be aware that professional emergency system not only fail, give off false warnings, but are largely unable to cope with large scale emergencies. That being said however, there is one thing that the EBS and similar systems such as the Weather Alert system can be used for, practice.
It is one thing to prepare for TEOTWAWKI by purchasing supplies for our Bug Out Bags, it is another to practice using them unexpectedly. If you are aware that the following weekend you plan to test out your BOB, it lacks the ability for you to learn something that might be in the need to know area for events that happen without warning. By using the EBS system and similar warning methods to trigger a personal test run of your G.O.O.D. System, you become more aware what else you might need to consider.
Using the EBS system or even something else that is random, such as every time you hear a certain song on the radio, to trigger you to practice a get out of dodge scenario means being able to deal with unexpected. Think of it like a fire drill from the old days at school, when ever you hear that annoying tone across the television, or whatever it is you use to trigger it, see how fast every one in your family can get home safe, or even better, how fast every one can get to your hide out in the woods.
I would suggest that you also practice other scenarios, you can get your kids involved by making a game of it, telling them every time they see an elephant on TV they have to practice a fire drill, then you can expand it to include what ever you feel works.
One other thing I think is important here, getting professional advise will allow you to see two things, and get valuable information. By approaching the local police department, emergency services, or even a local chapter of your Civil Defense corp. you can find out what they have to offer your family in training, you will also get an idea of how well your community is able to deal with different disasters.
Lastly, being able to get long distance based information is vital to good preemptive measures that might be needed WSHTF, I would suggest that survivalists establish communications with others at a distance in order to pass vital information, HAM radios is best for this, but MURS will do fine for locals that know each other on a personal level.
3"NIST Response to the World Trade Center Disaster: World Trade Center Investigation Status," S. Shyam Sunder, Acting Deputy Director and Lead Investigator, Building and Fire Research Laboratory, NIST, US Department of Commerce, 10/19/2004, (PowerPoint presentation)