The Importance of Having a NO COMMS Plan

Verbal communication is essential to so many activities in our lives today. It is the foundation of human interaction.

Whether you’re ordering a coffee, closing a multibillion-dollar acquisition or just need to know where your kids are, it is critical to establish and maintain this vital function.

So what do you do when you grab your cellphone out of your pocket and it’s not working? Or on a more massive scale, what do you do if the electrical grid goes down and there’s no cell service PERIOD?

In the SEAL teams, during mission planning and rehearsal, we would train for the best-case scenario and plan for the worst. In every operation, this included a “NO COMMS” plan.

Basically, this was a plan of action we instituted in the event we lost all verbal communications. It is a predetermined series of “hard” times, locations and visual/audible signals — which I will detail shortly.


Next weekend I will be hosting my good friend and his family at my remote place in the mountains of Colorado. They joined me here last summer and we hiked and camped at a nearby lake referred to as the “mystery in the mountains” because so few people know about it.

They enjoyed it so much that my friend’s sons want to return on their own for another overnighter. There will be four of them between the ages of 14–18 making the trek. They plan to set up camp next to the lake at an elevation of just under 10,000 feet — with ZERO cellphone service.

When I heard the kids wanted to do this without the adults around, I was fired up. It’s an amazing learning experience. Absolutely! But Mom is a little worried, as any mom would be given the lack of verbal comms.

But I reassured her that there is a way for us to know if they are OK. Even more importantly, for us to know if they need help.


Here is what we did in the SEAL Teams in the event of a loss or lack of verbal communication. This is also what the boys will do during their little adventure.

  1. Twice a day at a specific time (this is VERY IMPORTANT — example: 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.), they will fire two shots into the air. You can easily hear a gunshot for miles, and since it’s not hunting season yet we will know it’s them. While enjoying the comforts of my home (base camp), we will return the shots with two of our own. This means that everything is OK.(Note: There were obvious situations during SEAL operations where it was tactically wrong to use our weapons to signal. That’s why it’s key to stick with a very strict time and place schedule in the event of a loss of comms.)
  1. If over 30 minutes pass from the “hard time” and we don’t hear any shots, we will fire two rounds into the air. It’s possible they may have lost track of time.
  1. If we do not hear any shots returned within 10 minutes, we will assume the worst and head up to their campsite.
  1. In the event of an emergency, the boys will take with them at least six marine-style (airborne) signal flares. These can be purchased at any boat store or marina.ORION signal flaresThey have been instructed to fire one of these toward “base camp” (ONLY IN THE EVENT OF AN EMERGENCY) every five minutes until we return the signal with a flare of our own. This will tell them we are on our way.
  1. Finally, if all else fails, we have a hard time and place when and where we will pick them up. In this case, it is the trailhead for the hike to the lake.

Now, the above is a very specific NO COMMS plan for this situation. But you can do the same thing with your family should some type of crisis occur — or even just for practice in a fun, relaxed setting like this one.

It’s as simple as “everyone will meet at this time at this location if we are not in communication.” Be sure to establish multiple options in case someone can’t make the meeting for any reason. Even if you never need to enact your no comms plan, you should definitely have one in place.

Be a survivor… not a statistic,

Cade Courtley

Cade Courtley

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