Getting in touch with loved ones can be difficult after a disaster. Landline or cell phone service in your apartment building or neighborhood may be limited, or the circumstances just might not allow you to make the calls you need to reach family and friends.
Fortunately, some foundations and not-for-profit organizations have set up free services to help with this problem. Here's a rundown on what these services are and how they work:
Maintained by the American Red Cross, this free Web service lets you register yourself as "safe and well" following a disaster. As a registered member, you can select standard messages indicating your wellbeing as of a certain date. To help maintain privacy, people who search for a member must know the member's pre-disaster phone number or address.
Contact Loved Ones (CLO) was created by Project Genesis, a New York not-for-profit organization, to help people reach family and friends in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. As long as you can find a working telephone, you can use this free voicemail service during any type of emergency by listening to or leaving messages -- and there's no access code required. This service is helpful if your regular telephone isn't working or you've been displaced from your apartment.
To access the service, just call 1-443-992-4890 and follow the instructions.
The Next Of Kin Registry (NOKR) is an emergency contact system that helps locate a person's next of kin in the event that person is missing, injured or deceased. Unlike the services mentioned above, this service intends for you to register before a disaster occurs. In addition to registering yourself, you can register family members and friends, along with their emergency contact listings. Each registration is time-stamped and the information is kept secure. In the event of an emergency, only registered agencies (such as the police or a medical examiner's office) are permitted to retrieve your information.