While we are calmly making our way through hurricane season right now, it is a great time to discuss one aspect of emergency and disaster preparedness that often goes unplanned until it is too late – communication. One of the most frightening aspects of being involved in a wide spread emergency or natural disaster is the potential to lose our ability to communicate with both loved ones and emergency responders if necessary. However, with the widespread advances and use of technology today, we tend to take access to communication for granted and not think about the potential there is to lose access to communication during a natural disaster or widespread emergency.
During and immediately following a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, or tropical storm, access to communication can be significantly impacted with the risk of wide spread power outages, downed power lines and cell phone towers, and cell phone service towers being overwhelmed. The overwhelming of cell phone service towers is also a risk to access to communication during a widespread emergency, such as a terrorist attack.
Here are a few tips to help you stay in touch with family and friends, and emergency responders, during and after a disaster or wide spread emergency:
Make A Plan
The best thing you can do is to prepare an emergency communication plan well before a disaster occurs. Make sure everyone in your family, and any one important to your communication plan, knows and understands your communication plan. There are many things a well-prepared emergency communication plan should prepare for, including:
- Keeping an updated list of emergency contacts and phone numbers. This list should include emergency responders, family, close friends, at least one out-of-town contact who may be better able to reach family members during an emergency, and a list of local and national resources that can assist you during and after natural disasters.
- Program ICE (in case of emergency) contacts into your cell phone so emergency responders know who to contact if you are unable to communicate yourself.
- Have a variety of options for cell-phone chargers including your standard power outlet charger, car chargers, and battery-operated charger.
- Subscribe to text alert services from local and state governments, as well as your child’s school district emergency alert system.
Keep Your Landline
Because most of us rely on our cell phones for all our day-to-day communications, it can be really tempting to get rid of our landlines. But having a landline phone connection during a natural disaster can prove to be invaluable. Cell phone towers often experience multiple problems during a disaster, between downed towers and congested lines access to communication using our cell phones can be extremely limited. Landlines, however, use a underground copper wire to provide a direct connection between the telephone provider and the phone line, making an old-school landline the most reliable form of communication during a hurricane because it doesn’t require electricity to continue to work. But make sure your landline is a wired landline rather than a VoIP (voice over internet protocol), and that your phone connected to the landline is a traditional corded phone, not a cordless phone that still relies on electricity.
If You Don’t Have An Emergency Then Text, Don’t Call
Most importantly do not call 911 unless you have a life-threatening emergency. Remember that everyone in your area is experiencing the same disaster you are and that there are going to be people facing life-threatening scenarios who need to be able to get through to emergency responders. Additionally, for any non-emergency communications use text messaging or another form of communication instead of calling. Data-based services such as text messaging and emails use less network band-with than voice-based services, so they are less likely to experience network congestion, making it easier for your message to get through.
Conserve Your Cell Phone Battery
Keeping your cell phone battery charged during an emergency or natural disaster is important because you don’t know how long you will be without electricity and the ability to recharge your phone. Keep your phone on the charger until your electricity does go out so you can ensure it will be fully charged from the moment the power goes out. Other things you can do to conserve battery power on your cell phone include dimming the screen, turning off any unnecessary apps, not using the phone unless necessary, and even turning the phone off completely when not in use. If you plan on turning your cell phone off to conserve your battery during the emergency then update your voicemail message, that way people calling to check-in on you will still receive an update.
Take Advantage Of Social Media
Social media provides us with the unique ability to communicate with a wide group of people all in one communication. And your family and friends are probably going to be checking in on social media regularly during a natural disaster or wide spread emergency to look for updates on loved ones in the impacted area. Facebook also uses location technology to offer news updates, resources, and the ability to mark yourself as “safe” if it determines you are near a disaster impacted area.
Before a natural disaster has the chance to leave you and your family unprotected contact the licensed insurance agents of Magruder Insurance to review your current coverage and make sure you properly protected. Then, if you and your family are impacted by a natural disaster contact your agent as soon as possible to get started on your claim process.