When it comes to gathering and communicating important information about emergencies, the internet is the third most popular way to do so, according to the American Red Cross. Everyday technologies enable individuals, families, first responders, and organizations to quickly disperse a variety of information. This, in turn, allows them to get organized and stay connected with the public and their loved ones. Read on to learn more about how these technologies are used and can help you.
Store your important documents such as personal and financial records in a password-protected area in the Cloud or on a secure flash or jump drive that you can keep readily available. This flash drive can be kept on a key ring, so it can be accessed from any computer, anytime, anywhere. Make sure to share this document with family members, friends and co-workers who will also need to access it in an emergency or crisis. Remember important documents, such as:
Personal and Property Insurance
Identification such as driver’s license or passport (for family members, as well)—When handling personal and sensitive information, always keep your data private and share it only with those who will need access in case of emergency.
Banking information—Sign up for direct deposit and electronic banking through your financial institution, so you can access your payroll funds and make electronic payments regardless of location.
Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance. Create an Emergency Information document or Family Communications plan to record how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in different situations.
Keep your contacts updated across all of your channels, including phone, email and social media. This will make it easy to reach out to the right people quickly to get information and supply updates. Consider creating a group list of your top contacts.
The following are additional tips for 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.
- If you are unsuccessful in completing a call using your cellphone, wait ten seconds before redialing to help reduce network congestion.
- Conserve your cellphone 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.
- If you lose power, you can charge your cellphone in your car. Just be sure your car is in a well-ventilated place (that is, remove it from the garage) and do not go to your car until any danger has passed. You can also listen to your car radio for important news alerts.
- Immediately following a disaster, resist using your mobile device to stream 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 911.
For non-emergency communications, use text messaging, email or social media instead of making voice calls on your cellphone 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.
In addition to using your cellphone and other technology, tune into broadcast television and radio for important news alerts. If necessary, be sure that you know how to activate the closed captioning or video description on your television.
Important: In an emergency, you still need to call 911 for help. Remember that you cannot currently text 911. If you are not experiencing an emergency, do not call 911. If your area offers 311 service or another information system, call that number for non-emergencies.