Electronic Disaster Preparedness 101: How to Prepare for Chaos

By: H. Davis

Disasters – whether man-made or natural – strike in every corner of the world, during any season, and in a variety of sizes, which is why they’re so dangerous. Aside from the amount of chaos and destruction they cause, perhaps the number one reason why communities are affected so much has to deal with their lack of preparedness. Certainly, a case can be made that a lack of preparedness makes the situation worse.

Fortunately, there are organizations – like food banks, shelters, and of course, hospitals – serving as key players when it comes to providing aid and resources to neighborhoods affected the most. As a matter of fact, there are nurses on the front line right now responding to crisis situations around the world.

What Does It Mean to Be Prepared for a Disaster?

According to Ready.Gov, being prepared starts by staying informed. Being informed is the first step of taking preventative steps towards reducing the severity of a disaster’s effects. In fact, the overall goal of disaster preparedness is to mitigate the impact of the disaster on communities. How? By encouraging them to design and coordinate action plans that reduces the amount of efforts, time, money, and of course, the resources being used — which is important because disaster preparedness has the ability to save hundreds, if not thousands, of lives at any given moment, and it’s aimed to turn affected communities back to normalcy as quickly as possible.

Electronic Devices and Preparedness

Smartphones offer users a world of knowledge and information. Information that can be accessed right at their fingertips with only a few taps. Throughout the digital age, phones have essentially become second nature to us, so why not take the time to turn it into a life-saving device during an emergency?

During a natural disaster, for example, a smartphone can be used like a radio scanner, allowing you to listen to local police and firefighters, gathering information on what’s going on around you. That’s why experts recommended being informed ahead of time and luckily, our phones do just that.

There’s a lot more you can do with your mobile devices, so if you don’t have an action plan for your phone, then you’re wasting an opportunity. You need to do a few things in advance, however, to make sure it will be as helpful as possible during an emergency. Just keep in mind: You won’t be able to rely on your device for everything.

Here are Some Tips

Download Emergency Apps Ahead of Time: Although it sounds like a waste of time, consider downloading emergency apps in case you’re unable to make phone calls. Organizations like the Red Cross offers a wide number of apps that include First Aid, Hurricane, Earthquakes, and Oil Spill updates. Each disaster listed on the checklist comes also comes with a set of instructions – like performing CPR or safely storing food and water during power outages, and short answer quizzes, and emergency notifications.

Have a Backup Plan in Case Your Phone Dies: The battery is just 1 of 10 ways to improve smartphones performance; which means even if you have good reception in your area, you might still want to think about your battery before making phone calls and checking your social media accounts. That’s because, without power, your phone is as useless as the plastic it came wrapped in.

It’s important to have some sort of backup power solution nearby – like a portable phone charger – to keep your device charged. A better idea, however, would be to pick up a battery charging device with a hand crank attached to it. This allows you to charge your phone the old fashion way – by hand – which will come in handy in case the electricity is down longer than expected. There are also solar panel which can charge phones.

Use Wi-Fi Calling: Although unlikely, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in a situation where you have wifi available, but not cell reception. Technology, right? But don’t get discouraged, because having Wi-Fi service doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to close family and friends in other areas to let them know that you’re safe.

Using apps like Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat allows you to make free calls via Wi-Fi – even if you don’t have service. Some apps, however, might require you to set up an account ahead of time in order to use their service. Skype is another free tool users can rely on, as long as they’re calling another Skype user. If for whatever reason you needed to reach out to someone on a landline, be prepared to spend about 10 cents for every call you make.

With all this in mind, just remember: before, during and after a disaster, there will be a lot of people picking up their phones trying to make calls all at the same time. With the number of calls being made, networks might get congested, which could lead to a busy line on your wireless phone or a slow dial tone if you’re calling a landline phone. If this happens, don’t get frustrated and toss your smartphone; instead, hang up, and wait about 10 seconds and then try calling again. Waiting 10 seconds will also allow your network line to clear, making it easier for you to make phone calls. Better yet, try sending a text message, as these are far more likely to get through, due to how they are routed through the cell networks. However, iPhone users may need to take an extra step before sending SMS messages.

The best way to ensure that your plan will work effectively is to try it out yourself on your own smartphone. Walk through your plan with your family and friends or do a mock drill to ensure that everyone knows what they’re doing.

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Thanks for the read! Did I miss anything important? What are some other ways residents can prepare for the worse electronically? Feel free to leave a comment below.

H. Davis loves exploring the outdoors and being active. If you can’t catch him online reading up prep topics, you might be able to catch him out playing football with friends or cheering on the Boise State Broncos. Follow him on Twitter at @Davis241. Thanks!

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