It’s All About Communication

Part 2 of 3
By Teri Simpson

So you have started your neighborhood group. That’s great. Now the question is how can this group of like minded neighbors be utilized to increase communication and security now, while we still have phones and computers, and later, when these taken-for-granted items no longer function?

First let’s look at the primary goals and objectives of such a group.

Goals and Objectives of Group
  • Provide for communication in time of need, emergency or Ranch event, for when normal services ARE available, and then for times when normal services are NOT available (therefore learning how to use the calling list, CB/ham radios and getting alternative power source to run the CB, etc.)
  • Provide neighborhood awareness (who is living nearby)
  • Knowing who has what skills and equipment available in a crisis, and in crisis or non-emergency situations knowing who has what consumables or non-consumables for sale/barter, shifting towards a non-market economy.
  • Create a cohesive group, a support system of serious intent & commitment to make this work

The telephone network (calling circle) is to be used for emergency information or notification of a Ranch event that got called on very short notice. It is not to be used to sell your old sofa, or to prospect for new people for your latest MLM business.

You will have a list of like minded neighbors who value their privacy just as much as you value yours. This list will have names, phone numbers and email addresses on it (we never included any addresses – either you know where I live or you don’t, and if you don’t then you probably don’t need to).

This list should be treated as a sacred trust and not left lying around just any old place where a casual visitor could pick it up and read it, or even worse, take it away with them. The person who made up our list did it so that it was an 8.5x11” piece of paper folded in half, with the names, phone numbers and email addresses on the inside and there was a nice picture on the outside, so that even if it was lying on your desk, no one would see any of the names etc. Great idea. Totally disguised.

In order to have a Calling Circle, which is a low tech way to notify many people in a very short amount of time via the phone, everyone in the group must have the list of names and numbers (and be able to find it). In an emergency, what good is it if you can’t find the list at all, or it takes a day and a half to find it?

The excuse that only your partner knows where the list is, or only the partner knows how the Calling Circle works just isn’t going to cut it in a real emergency. Buck it up and participate, full hands on here folks. Someday your life could depend on some of these “simple” measures.

Let’s say, for example, that someone in your neighborhood sees a band of thugs vandalizing a neighbor’s property, or someone attempting to break into their house. In this case, the person would call 911 first, and then initiate the Calling Circle to alert the other households in the neighborhood. It could also be something less dire, maybe an Event was called and there are only 3 or 4 hours notice to get to the Ranch.

For smaller groups (under 12 or 15 people, which is not a number etched in stone), the Simple Calling Circle will work fine. The person who initiates the Calling Circle calls the person immediately below themself on the list (not at the top of the list – this is a circle, so it is the next person below you on this list). If a “live” person answers, then you tell them the news and tell them to continue the calling circle. You are now free to prepare for whatever the event calls for (get out your guns or a baseball bat, make sure your doors are all locked and the dog is inside, or pack your car to go to the Ranch).

But what if you call the next person underneath your name and you get their voice mail? You leave your message, and you immediately dial the next number underneath their name. If you do not encounter a real live person on that call, you leave your message and call the next number. YOU CONTINUE TO CALL UNTIL YOU REACH A LIVE PERSON TO PASS THE BATON TO. Only once you have reached a real live breathing person that you give the message to (AND THEY CAN CONTINUE THE CALLING because they have their list) is your responsibility fulfilled, because it is now their turn to call the person underneath them on the list. And to keep calling until they reach a live person.

If you reach someone (live) and tell them the message and they say something like “I don’t have a copy of the phone list” then you must consider that equal to not reaching a live person but only leaving a message. Then you have to keep calling.

Does this sound too hard? Like it would take forever to make All Those Calls (sigh…)? It would AMAZE you how quickly you can make 9 or 10 calls when you are focused and it is about something serious. It should take much less than half an hour for the message to go from the originating person all the way through every household on the list and back to the first person.

And the only way to know if your group “has it together” or not is to do some test runs. How do those work? At your next meeting, pick someone to be the Start person. Give them a 1 or 2 day window in which they can pick the moment to start the Calling Circle (hint here: everyone is new at this most likely, no one has had lots of practice with calling circles, so don’t do the first one or two at 3 a.m. in the morning). Pick a Sat/Sun and let them decide when to start calling. Have them write down what time they made the first call. Then they should write down at what time they heard from the last person in the circle.

What were the results? Did it take 15 minutes? 30? 2 hours? (big group or you need more focus and speed). Did everyone have the list of numbers? How many lost or didn’t know where their phone list was? What were the weak points and what can you do to address them?

You might think Oh this is silly. Why should I participate? I am a very very busy person….

Well, I think you should get off that attitude and participate because if there is ever a dire emergency, and the area is in immediate danger, you will want to know about it, and be kept informed. What if all hell breaks loose, and your neighbors galvanize into action, a cohesive team that knows what to do and how to do it, and then there you are going What? What is going on? What should I do? We are forming these neighborhood communication groups now, while we still have phones and email and grocery stores and EBay and Radio Shack and all manner of things we take so for granted. And we will build on these groups, first by getting to know each other in our immediate area, then by learning to communicate effectively and efficiently using current available technologies like phone and email. Then we will step it up a notch and learn how to do it with CB radios, Single Side Band CB radios and shortwave or “ham” radios so that we can communicate with others at much farther distances without any telephones or cell phones or email. We will be able to find out what is going on in other parts of the country or the world even though we no longer have TV.

Now, let’s say that your group has grown – you now number 20, 30, maybe even 40 people. Awesome. But when you get a group of this size, the Simple Calling Circle model isn’t as efficient as you will need. Remember, the concept is to notify the ENTIRE group in a very short amount of time. Target less than 30 minutes. Can your group hit that target? How about 20 minutes? 15?

When there are more people in a group, (let’s say 30 people for this example), whoever starts the calling will first call the 15th person below them on the list. If you get a voice mail, leave a message and call the 16th person, etc. THEN, call the person directly below your name on the list. If you reach that person, your part is finished. If you get a voice mail, then call the next person on the list. CALL UNTIL YOU GET A ‘LIVE’ PERSON, then your part is done—that person will continue the Calling Circle.

The 15th person down the list from you that you called will call the person directly beneath them, leaving a message if they get a voice mail, and calling TIL THEY GET A ‘LIVE’ person. Once they do, their part is done as the ‘live’ person will continue the circle from there.

When the 1st person gets a call from the person just ABOVE them on the list, they will know that the message made it from the 15th person all the way through the second half of the list. When the 15th person gets a call from the person just ABOVE them on the list, they will know that the message made it from the first person all the way through the first half of the list. At this point the 15th person should check in with the 1st person to let them know that half is completed (the 1st person IS NOT NECESSARILY THE FIRST NAME AT THE TOP OF A PAGE!!)


Once your group has the basics down, and you know your neighbors, their skills and abilities, and you can run through a Calling Circle exercise lickety split, then you’re going to be ready to look at alternative communication – walkie talkies, CB radios and Ham (shortwave) radios.

Next week we’ll take a look at the different kinds of radios, what they can do and which kind you might want to get (and how to power them if the electric grid goes down).

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