Do you have an emergency preparedness plan in your household? Many families do—whether because they live in an earthquake or hurricane prone area, or because they want to be prepared for a personal emergency just in case. This might include developing a written plan with your family, keeping a kit in the household with essential items such as water, food, flashlights, a first aid kit and ensuring that vehicles have a full tank of fuel. And in the last decade, another item has become a key component of emergency preparedness: the smartphone.
The smartphone is already a critical component of people’s daily lives—you don’t leave the house without your keys, your wallet and your smartphone. In some situations, your smart phone may actually be your keys and your wallet. It keeps you in touch with family and friends, provides you directions if you get lost and provides you access to critical information via apps and the web. During an emergency, these kinds of capabilities are more important than ever, making the smartphone a key part of not only everyday life but emergency preparedness.
A smartphone can provide critical support during an emergency but—like your emergency kit and home vehicle—it needs to be prepared. There are several ways you can prepare your smartphone for an emergency. Here’s how:
- Download emergency preparedness apps like the Red Cross and FEMA, which provide advice and emergency notifications even if you don’t have cell service.
- Set up your ICE (in case of emergency) contacts on your phone. iPhone owners can use the Medical ID function for this—allowing people to access these contacts even if the phone is locked. For Android, the options vary but if it is not available on your phone you can download an ICE app.
- Ensure you have back up power options for your phone such as a portable battery or a car charger. You may want to consider purchasing portable batteries that work via hand crank as well.
- Download a map app that doesn’t require cell service (you can view a list of several options here) or download important maps in advance using Google Maps’ new offline feature.
- Create a digital meet up plan with your family, designating a single digital place where you will all check in. This may be Facebook or Twitter, or you might decide that during emergency all communication should occur over a specific messaging app.
- Supplement the digital meet up plan by designating an out-of-town contact to expect your check-ins who can serve as a central point of communication if people have intermittent service and only have the option to contact one or two people.
- Have Wi-Fi friendly communication apps on your phone in case you end up in an area with no cell service but still have access to internet. These could be Skype or Viber for phone calls, or secure messaging apps like Vaporstream.
With today being Halloween, it’s important to prepare for the holiday. Communication is an imperative part of any emergency plan. When Trick-or-Treating, make sure that you have a communication plan in place for friends, family and emergency contacts. Be prepared for the weather, and make sure that when out visiting houses in the dark, you can be easily seen. Also, ensure that you are using a designated messaging app that runs on both cell service and Wi-Fi. Keep plans simple and functional so that everyone has fun and stays safe.
Contributor: The Vaporstream Team