Communications are the grease in any social organization. When folks get separated in time or distance, there needs to be special attention to methods of communication that have persistence, visibility, and endurance. Misunderstandings and incomplete information destroy relationships, destroy teamwork, and create havoc and damage. Minimize this havoc and damage by working to get the message across many times and in many ways. Do what you can to make sure communications is always a two way street. Redundancy and feedback or critical to effective communications.
Some of the means of communications available to caravan leaders include the following.
In person - Meetings are important means to achieve consensus, resolve questions that arise, and disseminate information needed by participants.
Phone - telephone numbers of all participant's cell phones, emergency centers, planned stopping places, event sites management offices, or other important or potentially useful facilities in every area the caravan will pass through should be made available to each caravan participant.
CB - The CB radio is still a most useful means for caravan participants to use to keep in touch with each other. Participants should plan to be able to monitor the radio both on the road as well as in camp.
FRS - GMRS - These new additions to the CB type communications should also be a part of the caravan's communications repertoire. The radios are inexpensive, small, work over several miles, and are very useful as an alternate to the old style CB as well as for walkabout type uses such as on tours or to help in parking.
Amateur Radio - Ham Radio operators may not be for everyone due to the licensing process but a few hams in your caravan can help with longer range communications such as from the caboose to the lead. If you do have several hams in your caravan, the plan should encourage them to develop a plan for how they can best assist the caravan communications and how the rest of the participants can coordinate and use their capabilities.
Flags and Signals - Flags and signals serve many purposes. They can help identify participants as part of the caravan; they can signal a need for assistance; they can assist in providing direction; - In order to provide effective communication, the flags and signals need to be carefully defined and participants need to be trained in their use and recognition. Part of this training will include what to do when a flag or signal is seen as well as how to signal a particular need they might have.
E-mail and Web - Many people have the ability to keep in touch via e-mail while at stops or even while on the road. E-mail can be used for notifications and announcements as well as discussion. A web site can be maintained with all caravan information and updated frequently as a reference to current progress and any changes in plans.
Bulletin Board - There should be an identifiable bulletin board that can be displayed at each group stop. This serves as a central medium for intra-caravan communications and also as a publicity medium where others not involved in the caravan can learn about the caravan group and what it is doing. Careful consideration should be given to placement of the Bulletin Board so that it can be easily found by participants.
Journal - The caravan journal is the primary means of providing feedback and evaluation to assist future caravan planners. It includes minutes of meetings to properly define decisions considered and actions taken. All administrative and managerial data, such as event and camp contact information, kitty keeper reports, contracts, and site evaluation reports should be in the journal. There should also be a part of the journal that can serve as a memories album to highlight the people and their enjoyable moments on the caravan.
Other - Any other potential or possible communications means should be sought out as a means to assist and support the caravan. This includes postal mail which is most useful prior to the caravan but still might be useful during the caravan. On some caravans, language might also be a communications concern.
For caravanners to learn about the communications you use will also require communications. This requires a coherent and cohesive communications plan encompassing publicity, image, presence, agreements, education, presentation, evaluation, and feedback. When it comes to communication, take nothing for granted, watch for indications of communications failure, and take appropriate action to make sure that everyone is up to date, fully informed, and has their questions answered.
Interesting essay on use of maritime signal flags - http://www.weathergage.com/brad/literature/Flags%20and%20Signals.htm
Marine flag and pennant meanings and morse code - http://home.zylstra.com/signals/
Flags used in auto racing - http://www.crashnet.org.uk/idiot/parttwo.html, or http://www.wcma.ca/whandsgn.htm and http://www.motorsportmarshalling.on.ca/training/hand_signals.htm with a good dictionary of hand signals for drivers, or http://www.pokerrunsamerica.com/flag.html for a boating variant which has hand signals, too.
Oral Roberts University Library on signal flags - http://www.oru.edu/university/library/REF-flags.html or at Michigan - http://mel.lib.mi.us/reference/REF-flags.html
Rocky Mountain Survival Group - - signals, flags, whistles, Cree hand signs, semaphores, hand signals for trainmen and others,
Please let us know what you think of these links and pass along any suggestions or other links that might be of use to those investigating this site- tourguide@SierraNevadaAirstreams.org
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