If Hurricane Wilma and Superstorm Sandy taught us anything, it’s that we can’t let our guards down just because we’re late into hurricane season. Having experienced the impact and devastation of Sandy on Staten Island, New York, firsthand, I can say with certainty that smartphones played an integral role in how people without power stayed connected and informed.
Whether it was to track the actual storm’s path after the electricity went out, stay in touch with family and friends to be sure they were safe, or use social media apps to organize a collection of supplies to bring to the worst-affected areas, smartphones helped us get through that storm.
Here are strategies to ensure that your phone can help you during a hurricane or other weather emergency:
- Stay fully charged. If you know about an impending storm, stop what you’re doing and plug your phone into a charger so that you’ll have a full battery. The same goes for other electronic devices. While you’re at it, pick up a couple of extra phone batteries and/or boost chargers and get them full of juice so you’ve got some back up. During Sandy, I had to sit in my car a few times to charge my phone during our days without power. Which brings up a good point – make sure you have a car charger (and a full tank of gas), too.
- Have emergency phone numbers entered into your phone including your gas and electric company, your regional emergency management office and FEMA. You should also store all of your immediate neighbors cellphone numbers, as well as nearby family so you can check on them. Lastly, load apps that will help you track the storm, stay updated by local government or map out evacuation routes.
- Use your phone to snap pictures of your automobiles and the outside of your home, just in case you’ll need to show before and after photos to the insurance company should damage occur.
- In a pinch, like if you’re on your last set of D batteries, don’t forget about the flashlight app on your phone.
- To save phone battery, turn it off when you’re not using it, turn off non-essential apps, and definitely don’t waste your battery playing games.
- Follow the Facebook and Twitter feeds of local news, and post updates about your situation so that family and friends who can’t connect with you can find out how you are. Social media can also be a way to find out whether local schools, libraries, stores and/or gas stations are operating.
While it’s important to stock up on water, food, batteries, candles and have a battery-powered radio, don’t forget to add smartphone prep to your pre-storm checklist, too. Your phone might very well be your only lifeline to the outside world.