When a disaster hits, it can often be difficult to communicate with loved ones. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and other emergencies can cause power outages or overwhelming cellular services, sometimes making common lines of communication. But by planning ahead and following these tips, you can help maintain contact with friends and family in an emergency:
Prior to a disaster strike
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offers suggestions on how to prepare to communicate before an emergency occurs:
Keep a wired phone at home
If you have a landline phone at home, identify if it is connected traditionally or via a broadband connection (also called VoIP). Traditional landline phones usually work even if power goes out, with caution: Is the phone connected or cordless? Make sure you have at least one wired phone connected. In the event of a power failure, your wireless model, which requires electricity, will not work.
Download car charger Handy
Stay accustomed to keeping your mobile phone and laptop fully charged and have a charger available in the event of a power failure. Consider purchasing additional batteries and solar or handheld chargers for your devices.
Creating an Emergency Link List
If you have a hard copy of necessary contacts at hand, you can refer to them even if your smartphone dies. Start by collecting phone numbers and email addresses for everyone in your household. The FCC also recommends that you collect emergency phone numbers, utilities, hospitals, veterinarians and your insurance companies. Once your contact lists are complete, make sure that all members of your family have one.
In addition, the FCC identifies some contacts as "In Emergency" or ICE in the phone's contact list.
Creating an Emergency Plan
Since you and your loved ones can be separated when disasters meet, make sure you develop a plan specific to your family. For example, choose accommodation that is available to all family members with disabilities, as well as your pets, if you have them.
Ready.gov recommends that you choose an emergency meeting place located in your neighborhood and one outside your neighborhood. Your plan should also describe how you will contact each other. For example, set an out-of-town contact for everyone to announce that they are secure, or set an "on air" time where you turn on your phones and call or text with your status. It is also a good idea to work with your child's school or kindergarten to understand their emergency communication procedures.
During and after a disaster
There are also some steps you can take to improve the likelihood of successfully communicating with your loved ones in the Immediate Succession:
Text and Social Media
The Mobile Service Can become overloaded during an emergency. Instead, you can try text messages or e-mail, which according to the FCC are services that are less likely to experience network congestion. Also, consider publishing your status on social media or signing up on the American Red Cross' Safe and Good Site, so that loved ones may be looking for you to know you're okay.
Forwarding Your Home Phone
If you have landline and forwarding at home, FCC suggests forwarding your home phone number to your cell phone if you are away, or if the conditions warrant an evacuation.
Save the phone's battery life
You can extend the life of your mobile battery charge by reducing screen brightness, turning off Wi-Fi and closing apps that are not critical. In addition, if you can call, consider updating your voicemail so that even if incoming calls go to voicemail, you can offer your loved ones updates on your well-being.
By taking these steps to prepare and practice these tips, you can help ensure that you and your family are informed during an emergency.
Originally published May 1