Although natural disasters are sometimes unavoidable, we have come a long way in being able to better prepare for them. Mobile devices, for one, have revolutionized the way we can communicate and get information during times of emergency. New technologies and innovative apps have transformed mobile devices to versatile supercomputers so valuable that people keep them within reach at all times. What’s more, the capability to receive increasingly personalized services in context to particular usage has changed people’s usage habits to make mobile devices even more vital. For these reasons and more, mobile has become an essential link to immediate and important safety information when an emergency arises.
Each year as hurricane season approaches, the mobile industry continues to make advances to help us better prepare and respond to these storms and the disasters they can bring. Among other improvements, faster and more robust networks now allow us to call and text more easily from a wider range of locations, more advanced GPS and network-based geolocation services enable us to better find our way to evacuation routes, and specialized apps let us access tailored information to track storm paths and get real-time information on road closings.
This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it expects three to six hurricanes, with one or two of them major storms. In all of the haste and urgency that can arise during hurricane season, the ability to communicate is one of the most critical requirements. The following are some tips to consider when making a hurricane preparedness list. One of the most critical – and one I have taken to heart no matter where I am – is having extra power sources. I always have at least one separate charger for my phone with me. It just takes the concern away of running out of battery life.
Before the Storm
- If a storm approaches, use your mobile device to quickly take photos of your property and save them at a retrievable location, such as with a cloud service, to document the condition for insurance purposes.
- Opt in to receive text notifications for weather updates and stay informed by downloading some of these apps:
- The National Hurricane Center app (free) contains a wealth of information to allow you to track the path of every storm in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific.
- The Hurricane App, by the American Red Cross (free), lets you monitor conditions in your area, help you prepare, and find emergency aid.
- The Hurricane Hound app, for Android ($1.99), uses Google Maps to track and forecast the paths of tropical storms, and also provides access to National Weather Service public advisories.
- The Hurricane HD app, for iOS ($3.99), offers a comprehensive suite of features that provide such services as storm tracking and text bulletins.
- Program In Case of Emergency (ICE) contacts into your device so that emergency personnel can identify family or friends if needed.
- Prepare for possible evacuation by using your GPS to map the route to the nearest shelters.
- Download a flashlight app to your mobile device to have another emergency light source in case power goes out.
During the Storm
- Conserve battery power without having to turn your off your mobile device:
- Reduce screen brightness.
- Close unnecessary apps.
- Bring an extra charger.
- Keep your mobile device dry and have a plastic bag or other protective covering on hand.
- Make voice calls sparingly, and rely on text messages to communicate as they require fewer network resources.
After the Storm
- Consider taking pictures of any property damage to document it and use for comparison with pre-storm photos.
- Keep non-emergency calls to a minimum to free up network capacity for those in need and for emergency responders.
- Text the American Red Cross after the hurricane to donate and help provide relief to those injured or in need.
Of all the types of natural disasters that may occur, hurricanes present an especially long-term and wide-ranging situation that can last weeks and cover thousands of square miles. In this event, making sure you make the most of your mobile device can be pivotal in ensuring the safety and information of you and your family.
Mary Clark is the chief marketing officer of Syniverse.