Techie Tools of the Trade – NPM Tip of the Day

As the month of September draws to a close, we’re more than a bit sad to see the end of National Preparedness Month. But just because the official designation of “Preparedness Month” is ending, doesn’t mean we have to (or should) stop caring about preparedness. We thought we’d end NPM with a focus on some of the cooler aspects of preparedness — technology — especially since recent studies have shown the ever-increasing power of online media when it comes to how people get their news and information.

No matter what form of technology you like to use, there is a way to incorporate the following preparedness tips in your own personal disaster plan. (Okay, perhaps those people still rocking quill pens and carbon copies in lieu of a computer won’t find these as helpful…but then again, we’re also not quite sure how they’d be reading this blog post if they were.)

You can check out a full list of technological tips on the Ready.gov website, but we’ve complied some of the best of the best in the list below…think of it as the SparkNotes version:

  • Program “In Case of Emergency” (ICE) contacts into your cell phone so emergency personnel can contact those people for you if you are unable to use your phone. Let your ICE contacts know that they are programmed into your phone and inform them of any medical issues or other special needs you may have.
  • Learn how to send updates via text and internet from your mobile phone to your contacts and social channels in case voice communications are not available. Text messages and the internet often have the ability to work in the event of a phone service disruption.
  • Keep extra batteries for your phone in a safe place or purchase a solar-powered or hand crank charger. These chargers are good emergency tools to keep your laptop and other small electronics working in the event of a power outage. If you own a car, purchase a car phone charger because you can charge your phone if you lose power at your home.
  • Prepare a family contact sheet. This should include at least one out-of-town contact that may be better able to reach family members in an emergency. Make sure your contacts — including phone, email and social media — remain updated and consider creating a group list serve of your top contacts.
  • Have a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio or television available (with spare batteries). If the power goes out you’ll need a way to stay up-to-date on the news and emergency information.

The following are additional tips when making phone calls and using your smartphone during or after a disaster:

  • Keep all phone calls brief. If you need to use a phone, try to convey only vital information to emergency personnel and/or family.
  • Conserve your cell phone battery by reducing the brightness of your screen, placing your phone in airplane mode, and closing apps you are not using that draw power, unless you need to use the phone.
  • Immediately following a disaster, resist using your mobile device to watch streaming videos, download music or videos, or play video games, all of which can add to network congestion. Limiting use of these services can help potentially life-saving emergency calls get through to 9-1-1
  • For non-emergency communications, use text messaging, e-mail, or social media instead of making voice calls on your cell phone to avoid tying up voice networks. Data-based services like texts and emails are less likely to experience network congestion. You can also use social media to post your status to let family and friends know you are okay. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you can use resources such as the American Red Cross’s Safe and Well program.
We’d love to hear any tips you may have about how you use your technology to prepare for a disaster, whether its a helpful app you use or a system you’ve developed for staying organized. Feel free to send us your tips and ideas or comment below!
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