Discover 10 technology tools to help when a hurricane, tornado or other natural disaster strikes.
By: Lisa Wirthman
Although many coastal residents are still recovering from 2017’s brutal storms, it’s already time to get ready for the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, which begins June 1. Expect this year to be tamer than 2017, but still a busier-than-average storm season, experts predict. And no matter what the forecast, it’s always important to take proper precautions. “It takes only one storm near you to make this an active season,” says Michael Bell, an associate professor on the Colorado State University’s (CSU) Tropical Meteorology Project
Fortunately, there are many smart, proven, technologies that are helping to save lives and connect survivors with critical resources during hurricanes and other weather events. Here are 10 technology tools to help you stay safe when a natural disaster strikes.
It’s a good idea to store free emergency preparedness apps on your smartphone in advance of any crisis. The Red Cross has a Hurricane app to track storms that includes checklists and first aid advice, while the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) app has maps for emergency meeting locations and other important safety information. Zello is a push-to-talk walkie talkie app (like a CB radio) for person-to-person and group calls.
Wifi hotspots can provide much-needed internet connectivity if you are forced to leave your home due to a disaster. If you’re a Cox customer, click here to see how you can access one of 500,000+ hotspots nationwide. Cox customers also have access to the Contour App, where you can stream live TV channels, including local broadcasters and The Weather Channel, while on-the-go online or through the app.
Your smartphone is an essential technology tool for multitasking in any natural disaster. Set up “In Case of Emergency” or ICE contacts in advance, including local fire, police and emergency services, doctors, insurance companies and personal contacts. You can also sign up for emergency alerts to get important information and evacuation notices throughout the storm. Note: If you don’t have coverage or an active cell phone plan, you can still call or text 9-1-1 from your mobile phone.
In case you lose power, a portable battery charger with a hand crank can keep you connected. You can also purchase a smart car charger that can charge your phone faster and track your car’s battery life. Charge all your devices before disaster hits, and make sure to pack your chargers in your go-bag. A simple power strip can be great for charging multiple devices if you find a location with power, according to Consumer Reports.
If your phone isn’t waterproof, consider a waterproof case to safeguard it during an emergency. Many models allow you to use the phone’s touchscreen through the case, so you can keep it protected while getting information or help. As a last resort, keep some thick Ziploc bags in your emergency kit.
Weather Alert Radio
A radio is a great back-up form of communication that allows you to get weather updates and essential information in any emergency. The American Red Cross Weather Alert Radio, for example, can be powered using batteries, solar power or a crank, and has a built-in phone charger. Radio also travels much farther than cell networks and generally has less traffic, making it easier to get a signal.
Waze is a crowd-sourced traffic app that provides real-time information about road closures and traffic obstacles like fallen trees and flooded streets. Google also has a Crisis Map that shows active advisories and warnings and a map of shelters. If you’re searching for fuel, GasBuddy is a crowd-sourcing app for finding the cheapest gas in your area, and tells you if gas is available at that station.
There are many social media applications like Facebook, Twitter, and NextDoor that are great resources for communicating during a large disaster. Consider making a digital meet-up plan in advance that includes deciding what platform to use, making sure it’s installed on everyone’s phones, and selecting an out-of-town contact to act as a central source of information, recommends Consumer Reports.
In case you want to preserve your phone battery for other uses, consider a digital camera to document your belongings. If you have time, walk through your house and take photos or videos of each room, as well as any valuable items you want to document (including model and serial numbers). Also take photos of your vehicles from every angle. In case there is damage, take the same photos after the storm passes.
Smart Backup Generator
Portable generators provide critical backup power during a storm. Now some connected generators come with built-in Bluetooth technology that enables them to send data about fuel levels and power usage straight to your phone so you can keep track of your power supply – and stay dry.
Technology provides new ways to bolster emergency preparedness in any weather event. Updating your devices – and your plans – before the next hurricane season starts can help you to safely weather any storm that comes your way in 2018.