Powerful storms and natural disasters can obliterate infrastructure and cause power outages that make communication extremely difficult. Even parts of the country not prone to severe weather have seen incredibly destructive storms in the past few years. However, you can improve your ability to communicate before, during and immediately after a disaster with some advance planning.
Here are five ways to prepare at home:
1. If you still have a traditional land line, FEMA and the FCC both recommend keeping a corded phone in your home. Unlike a cordless phone, an old fashioned phone with a cord will still work even if you lose power.
2. Keep a car phone charger as a backup for charging your cell phone and have additional charged phone batteries ready to use.
3. Have an NOAA weather radio on hand. These radios usually contain a battery as well as a hand crank. They often have an outlet for charging a cell phone and some even have flashlights. NOAA radios are essential for getting accurate weather information during storms and power outages. Every home should have one.
4. Your cell phone should contain “In Case of Emergency” (ICE) contacts that can be reached by emergency personnel in the event you are injured and unable to use your phone. Be sure your ICE contacts are aware they are your emergency contacts.
5. Sign up to receive text alerts from state and local governments in the event of a disaster and follow government officials on social media. Twitter is particularly useful for getting up to the minute information during storms. During Hurricane Sandy, there was a steady stream of information on Twitter from New York and New Jersey government officials, relaying emergency information on topics, like bridge closings and shelter locations.
If you experience a power outage or natural disaster, power may be down.
Here are three tips to communicate effectively during these times:
1. As data based services are less likely to experience congestion than voice networks, the FCC and FEMA recommend text messaging, email or social media for non-emergency communications during a disaster.
2. To conserve your cell phone battery, reduce the screen brightness and close apps you’re not using that draw power.
3. If you charge your cell phone in your car, be sure your car is outside and not in the garage while the engine is running.
Make sure to rotate out your spare batteries on a regular basis so you always have a supply of fresh batteries. Spare batteries are of little use if they don’t work when you need them.