Every disaster planner knows the importance of reliable communications when something goes wrong. Which phone lines are secure? Which radio frequencies need to be set aside for fire, police, and EMS? What if everything goes down? What if your cell phone no longer works?
Enter the goTenna. I wrote about this product a few months back while it was still in the development and government red-tape stage. The goTenna was invented by a lady on the East Coast that lived through Superstorm Sandy three years ago and lost all communications. Vowing to never experience a total communication blackout again, she developed the goTenna. This device pairs with your smartphone through bluetooth technology and enables you to send secure text messages to another goTenna holder.
Think about it, if there is no cell phone coverage, you may need to connect with your kids who are still in school. Do they stay put? Are you on your way to get them? Should they head home? Or how about this: You are hiking or hunting with your companions. Suddenly you realize you are separated from your group. No problem, just give ‘em a call on your cell phone. Oops, no coverage out here in the hills. That’s when you pull out your goTenna and establish contact with your friends. One feature of this little device is that it includes a topographical map that displays the exact location of your hunting partner on your phone. Likewise, his phone also shows your location. When in range you simply text back and forth and the day is saved.
Initial claims of 50-mile effective range have been adjusted to a more realistic 1-5 miles (maybe slightly more) based on terrain and conditions. According to the photos on their website, the goTenna seems to be about the same size and shape as the toothbrush holder I carry in my shaving kit. Naturally they are rechargeable and easily slide into your backpack or Get-Home bag. You might argue that similar technology is already available with products such as the Garmin Rhino GPS radio. This is true, but a Garmin Rhino, fully equipped will cost up to $450.00 per unit. Besides the communication is in no way secure.
One popular feature is that your messages are encrypted. When the cell towers are bypassed, there is minimal opportunity for eavesdropping. Also you can opt for a “message destruction” feature that is also secure. All of this means something to the folks that are concerned about the security of their messages even if you are in an area that has cell service. Not only will this product work when you are out in the hills, but in the concrete jungle as well when you want to keep your messages private.
I was given a pair for Christmas last year. Only problem is I haven’t received them yet as they have been undergoing final testing and bureaucratic approval for the past several months. Some friends of mine have reported they now have received theirs, so mine should be in the mail any day now. This might just be the solution to your Christmas shopping for that hunter/outdoorsman/prepper that already has everything.
When mine arrive, I’ll write a review on how well they perform. Until then send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com. Dave Robinson is the Postmaster in Bandon, Oregon, and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us.”