Stay Connected When Disaster Strikes

A Citizen Corps National Survey showed that less than one-third of Americans (29 percent) have taken steps to prepare for a natural disaster. And, of those who said they did take some action, 35 percent acknowledged they had not created a household communications plan.

During National Preparedness Month, sponsored by FEMA and observed each September, Americans are encouraged to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools and communities. Here are a few tips on how technology can help keep your family connected in the event of an emergency.

First, develop a family emergency plan that includes what to do, who to call, where to go and what supplies to take with you if your family must evacuate. Wireless devices can be a key source of information and communication in an event of an emergency, so be sure to keep phonestablets, laptops, batteries, chargers and other equipment in dry, accessible locations like re-sealable plastic bags. Plus, have car chargers available to charge devices while on the road.  

Use your smartphone or tablet to take photos or videos of personal possessions for insurance purposes. You can save them to an online file storage site such as Verizon Cloud, ensuring you have a copy on file in case your computer is damaged.

When communicating with family during an emergency situation, opt for brief text messages rather than voice calls. Text messages are likely to get through more quickly in a crisis. You can also use your phone to follow local news, emergency contacts and community leaders via social media.

There are many apps available to help before, during and after an emergency. Weather Bug, for example, alerts you to potential severe weather, including radar, and supplements TV and radio warnings when the power goes out. An app such as Flashlight on iPhone can turn your smartphone into a light source in the event of a power outage.

The 5-0 Radio Police Scanner keeps you up to date on emergency events within your local area, and the American Red Cross Shelter Finder helps you find the nearest shelter locations following an emergency. To get prepared ahead of a disaster, the Disaster Readiness Guide app contains helpful in-case-of-emergency information that is available without an Internet connection.

Individual states may have their own apps to help locally in an emergency. Verizon Wireless is working with Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s Ready Georgia campaign throughout September to educate consumers about how best to prepare for severe weather emergencies. Ready Georgia’s wireless app sends real-time, local weather and hazard alerts, lets you create and update your personalized emergency contact and plans and provides emergency supplies checklist and information on how to prepare for specific threats.