The Do 1 Thing site won the Awareness to Action category of FEMA’s 2014 Individual and Community Preparedness Awards. It’s a 12-month program of small steps that you can take to increase your personal and household preparedness. Throughout 2015, DEM will feature Do 1 Thing items during our weekly blog post series of One Thing Wednesdays. Check back here every week for a new preparedness activity or tip!
July’s focus is communication. In a disaster, how will your family get in touch with each other? How will you report damage, emergencies, or dangerous situations to the authorities?
In this month’s Do 1 Thing posts, we’ve touched on ways to keep your cell phone charged in a disaster and the importance of having emergency contact information saved in your phone. But with multiple communication channels, a built-in Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and compass, and a myriad of useful apps, a modern smartphone is also a multifunction survival tool.
In an emergency, telephone circuits can be clogged with thousand of people trying to make calls at once. Text messages don’t use the same circuits as phone calls, and at 140 characters per message, they don’t consume much bandwidth. This means you may be able to get text messages out even when you can’t call. Make sure everyone in your family knows how to text. A word of caution: please don’t try to text to 9-1-1. This service isn’t available in all jurisdictions.
The smartphone’s greatest strength as a disaster tool may lie in its capacity for customization. Apps provide functions and information far beyond what the phone’s original designers envisioned. We surveyed our staff and our CERT volunteers to compile the following list of app suggestions:
- Weather: A good weather app provides real-time radar information as well as alerts for watches or warnings in a selected area. Our staff uses RadarScope (Apple iOS, Google Play), WeatherTAP (Apple iOS, Google Android), and NOAA Radar Pro (Apple iOS), among others.
- Power outage: We like the Kentucky Utilities outage map app (Apple iOS, Google Android, BlackBerry).
- Navigation: Kentucky’s 5-1-1 app offers weather, construction, and accident information for state and interstate highways (Apple iOS, Google Android). Some of our respondents also cited Waze for near-real-time crowdsourced traffic reports (Apple iOS, Google Android, Windows Phone).
- HAZMAT Placards: Several vendors offer app versions of the Department of Transportation’s Emergency Response Guidebook for deciphering the warning placards on that truck over there.
- FEMA: The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s mobile app offers preparedness information, disaster assistance applications, local weather alerts, and social media (Apple iOS, Google Android, BlackBerry).
- First Aid: Several respondents suggested various first aid apps, including some which provide audible cues for CPR. Special mention in this category goes to our next item…
- Red Cross: We could write a series of blog posts on the Red Cross’ family of apps. In addition to several disaster-specific preparedness apps, ARC also offers first aid apps for both humans and pets.
- Survival: A variety of wilderness survival apps provide information on how to endure various austere situations (though we’ll caveat this with a note that you’ll need to carefully ration phone power in any disaster). Special mention goes to the idea of installing a knot-tying app for visual – or even animated – instructions on how tie a variety of useful knots.
- Health: In iOS version 8, Apple introduced the Health app as part of the operating system. Among other functions, this app allows you to enter your emergency contact information and key medical details. This post on Apple Insider explains how to set it up and how other people can access it in an emergency (even if your iOS device is locked).
Disclaimer: The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and the LFUCG Division of Emergency Management do not endorse any goods, services, vendors, or service providers mentioned in our blog posts, social media statements, press releases, or website content. Any mention of commercial products is for informational purposes only.