Disaster preparedness begins with knowing your risks, making a communications plan and having an emergency supply kit with essentials such as water, food, flashlights and medications. Go beyond the basics to enhance your readiness with the following digital tools and tips:
Program important phone numbers into your contacts. Make sure your contact list includes friends, loved ones and anyone else you may need to rely on or reach out to in the event of a disaster. Include doctors, pharmacies, day care and dog walker contacts to ensure you can take care of yourself and your family’s needs.
Plan to use text messaging. During and after a disaster, phone lines usually become overwhelmed. Texting can help you check on your friends and family, leaving the phone lines open for emergency use.
Retain power, even when power is out. Consider investing in solar-powered or hand-crank chargers and external cell batteries to extend the life of your smartphone in case of a blackout. In the event of a power outage, remember to conserve cell battery by reducing screen brightness and turning your phone on airplane mode when you’re not using it.
Use social media to stay informed. Connect with your state and local public health and emergency management agencies on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on safety information before, during and after a disaster. You can also follow FEMA online at twitter.com/femaregion5 and facebook.com/fema.
Identify your important documents and electronically store them in a safe space. Scan important records such as household records, medical records and financial documents, and save the files on a cloud or flash drive. You may also want to password-protect the data you have stored in case of loss or theft. Store the backup records in a safe deposit box or other off-site location.
Download apps to get and stay prepared.
- FEMA app. Access disaster safety tips, an emergency kit list, emergency meeting location information and a map with open shelters. Text ANDROID or APPLE to 43362 (4FEMA) and receive a link for download (standard data/message rates apply) or go to the mobile site http://m.fema.gov.
- Red Cross app. Access information on first aid, disaster risks and shelters. Visit www.redcross.org.
- ICE (In Case of Emergency) app. Store emergency health information and list an emergency contact on the lock screen of your phone so medical technicians can get it as quickly as possible. Search ICE in your app store to download.
- MyFamily app. Keep your family’s health plan and prescriptions up to date on your phone and you’ll have them in an emergency. Visit www.HealthFinder.gov for more information.
Get safety information sent directly to your phone. Below is a list of disaster specific keywords you can use to sign-up for bi-monthly safety tips via text message:
- Hurricanes: text HURRICANE to 43362 (4FEMA)
- Home fires: text FIRE to 43362 (4FEMA)
- Wildfires: text WILDFIRE to 43362 (4FEMA)
- Tornadoes: text TORNADO to 43362 (4FEMA)
- Earthquakes: text EARTHQUAKE to 43362 (4FEMA)
- Winter storms and extreme cold: text WINTER to 43362 (4FEMA)
- Power outages: text BLACKOUT to 43362 (4FEMA)
- Floods: text FLOOD to 43362 (4FEMA)
- General monthly safety tips: text PREPARE to 43362 (4FEMA)
You can always find valuable tips to help you prepare for emergencies at www.Ready.gov and by following FEMA online at twitter.com/femaregion5, www.facebook.com/fema and www.youtube.com/fema.Did you like this story? Subscribe to NNS today.