Emergency Communications: What is a PACE Plan?

Too many times I’ve heard travelers say, “I have a bunch of ways to call home, I have Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and even Instagram,” not realizing that all of those rely upon a single communications channel. When the data cellular network goes down, all of those apps are unusable. Building a PACE plan using multiple channels is critical to ensuring reliable communications to home or help. This is especially critical for high-risk travel.

First off, what is PACE? It’s an acronym used in military communications planning that stands for:

  • Primary: The main form of communication. For most business travelers, this in the form of digital cellular communications. Depending on Wi-Fi is not advised.
  • Alternate: If the primary fails, this is your secondary form of communication. Most common is voice calls when the data network is down.
  • Contingency: Tertiary method of communication. A satellite phone is a great example as it is not reliant on any cellular network.
  • Emergency: If all else fails, this is the worst case option. It is usually ugly, but will get a message across. Examples go from sending short codes or texts from GPS tracking devices to using landlines if available. High Frequency (HF) radios have also been used but extremely rarely.

The most important part of the PACE plan is the act of planning itself. It takes time to properly research the country you are going to. International cell phone carriers may not have coverage in the region, meaning you’ll have to find out the best local carriers and buy sim cards upon arrival. Even satellite phones have breaks in coverage. There are several satellite phone services and some work better in different regions.

Battery power management is the next step of preparation. Having multiple forms of communication devices means having to power them all. It’s best to have three levels of power supply. Ensure you have adaptor plugs to take advantage of house power and car charging whenever possible. Next is to have a mid-size battery in your carry-on bag. Next a pocket-sized battery that is on your person at all times at a last resort. There is also a growing trend of highly effective battery sleeves that work great on cellphones without taking up tons of space.

Lastly, you need to ensure someone is on the other end. Depending on the risk level of your travel, you might need a 24/7 call center either located with your company or a global security/medical service provider. It’s an awful feeling to call for help and everyone is asleep on the other end.

For travelers conducting high-risk travel, or even more routine trips, taking the time to produce a proper PACE plan will make for significantly safer travel

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