One of my favorite emergency blogs entitled idisaster2.0 recently asked the question, “are you cell phone ready for an emergency?”  What a great question! They gave a list of great suggestions that they pulled from the Fairfax Virginia county EOC after the recent derecho storm that blasted the Mid-Atlantic states.  I have taken the liberty of adding on to their list.

Are your communications “emergency ready?”

  1. Use all alternatives to voice calls.
    1. Tell your friends & family you are OK via text, email, Twitter, Facebook and other social media.
    2. Learn how to send updates via text and internet from your mobile phone to your contacts and social channels in case voice communications are not available.
    3. Avoid calling by phone.
  2. If you have a life-threatening emergency, call 9-1-1. Remember that you cannot currently text 9-1-1.
    1. If you are not experiencing an emergency, do not call 9-1-1.
  3. Save all important phone numbers to your phone. Be sure to include local emergency numbers such as the local EOC, utilities status lines and alternates to 9-1-1.
  4. Keep charged batteries and car-phone chargers available as back-up power for your cell phone.
    1. Consider adding a solar or hand crank charger to your stockpile.
  5. Conserve your cell phone battery by reducing the brightness of your screen, placing your phone in airplane mode, and closing apps you are not using that draw power.
  6. Immediately following a disaster, resist using your mobile device to watch streaming videos, download music or videos, or play video games, all of which can add to network congestion.
    1. Limiting use of these services can help potentially life-saving emergency calls get through to 9-1-1.
  7. If you do not have a cell phone, keep a prepaid phone card to use if needed during or after a disaster.
  8. Charge your digital camera or buy batteries for your film camera if you need to document storm damage afterwards.
  9. Develop a family communication plan now.
    1. Solicit an out-of-state contact person who can act as an intermediary for all communication.  Pick an out of state person.
    2. Give that person the list of folks they are likely to hear from.
    3. Instruct them in their duties:  when an emergency strikes “my” area, be prepared to receive calls from those on the list.
    4. Ask them when they call: their status, where they are, where they are going and do they have a contact number.
    5. Be prepared to report their status to me when I call.

10. Get connected to your local country Emergency Operations Center (EOC) through the tools such as text, Twitter and Facebook. Check your local EOC and find out what tools they are using.

11. If you are shopping for a new phone, select one that is capable of receiving CMAS / Wireless Emergency Alerts messages. Your carrier should be able to direct you to these phones.

Most of us say we want to be ready for a major disaster and yet most of us aren’t. One of the most critical things to do in advance is to plan your communication strategy with those whom you love…do it today!