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Hurricane Safety: How to use your phone for disaster preparation

Preparation can be key.

hurricane dorian
Image: NOAA/NESDIS/STAR/ GOES-East

As Hurricane Dorian continues to storm up the East Coast, many people are prepping for its arrival or the arrival of future hurricanes. This means that everyone is looking to store up on bottled water, canned foods and other emergency supplies like spare batteries.

As you prepare your own home, remember that your smartphone can be a major help. Access to the internet and all that smartphones have to offer will be a game-changer in how you prepare for the storms to come, if you know how to use it.

Read on to learn how to use your phone for disaster preparation. You can use these tips in any future emergency situation, so you’ll be safer even after Hurricane Dorian passes through.

Update your contacts list

Before you do anything, make a list of everyone you’ll want to keep in contact with during the storm. Close family members and friends may not have access to a phone line if the power goes out and their phone dies, but you’ll want to at least be sure that you have a number to call them on.

Catch up with whoever should be on your emergency contact list and double-check that their phone number is up to date. You can also save information like where they’re riding out the storm, in case you should need to provide that information to emergency responders.

Bookmark sites you’ll need

During the storm, you’ll be monitoring weather maps and any incoming news you can read, but there are also a few government sites to be aware of. By bookmarking these sites, you can get the information you need straight from the source, instead of depending on news stations to publish it for you.

The National Weather Service has a mobile website where you can get weather information specific to your address, city or zip code. There’s also the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which has a website where you can find disaster assistance and updates regarding transportation services.

Don’t wait and then try to remember these sites when you find that you need them. Bookmark them now for easy access to important resources later on.

Turn on emergency alerts

Thanks to the widespread usage of smartphones, the US government can issue nationwide alerts straight to your phone. You may have already experienced this in the past with things like AMBER alerts, which many people decide to turn off.

In non-emergency situations, these alerts are extremely loud and even unwanted. Check to see if you’ve turned them off, and if you have, make sure to turn them back on.

Wireless emergency alerts could save you from nearby tornados or other severe weather that’s a result of a hurricane. They could wake you up so you don’t sleep through a dangerous event, keeping you safe 24/7. Improving communication is one of the ways you can prepare for hurricanes, which includes leaving your ringer on for emergency alerts.

Download helpful apps

People like to joke about being addicted to apps like games or social media, but downloading the right apps could be what saves your life in an emergency situation.

Before Hurricane Dorian (or any other hurricane) makes landfall where you live, download apps that are meant for emergencies. Zello transforms your phone into a walkie-talkie and police scanner. You can join a radio frequency through your data or WiFi connection to connect with first responders.

There’s also FireChat, which connects people without needing the internet. People in apartment complexes or nearby homes can keep up with each other throughout the storm, as long as they’re within 200 feet of each other.

Another useful app is GasBuddy. Gas stations can quickly run dry as people prepare for hurricanes, so don’t waste time traveling around town to find one with gas at the right price. GasBuddy lists all the gas stations in your area and the price of their gas, so you don’t have to go for days or even weeks without access to gas.

Charge an external battery

Your smartphone can help in so many ways during a major hurricane. It’s what will help you connect with first responders and the people you care about, along with functioning as an alert station.

Be sure to charge an external battery so your phone can stay charged even if the power goes out. With a smartphone in hand, you’ll have extra help to wait out any storm, especially something as major as a hurricane.

What do you think? Do you have any additional tips for people that are going through natural disasters? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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