When disaster strikes, your connected device can be a lifeline

7 tips to help planning for emergencies

African American woman connecting cable to cell phone

If the last year has shown us anything, it’s that disaster can strike just about anywhere, often with little warning. Technology can be an invaluable asset in an emergency – but as with any other tool, it works best for those who’ve made a plan.

As we mark National Preparedness Month this September, here are some simple tips for making a tech-savvy plan to help in an emergency.

  • Get an emergency charging option for your phone and other mobile devices. Charge your devices when you’re expecting severe weather, and consider keeping a backup power source in case the electricity goes out. You should also keep a backup charger (and a way to power it) in your vehicle.
  • Download and keep current any apps you may need. This may include commonsense applications such as the FEMA app, your state’s information app or a reliable weather app. Also consider messaging apps, banking apps, and anything else that may come in handy if you have to leave home for a few days.
  • Store important documents (and entire computer drives) in a secure place on the cloud. From baby pictures to insurance policies to medical records, services such as Google Drive and Apple iCloud make it simple to upload your critical documents to the internet where they’ll be safe from physical damage. Backing up your entire computer can seem like a bit of a hassle, but beats the possibility of losing all that important data and memories.
  • Take your financial life digital. Using direct deposit and online payments allows you to handle business and move money, even if you’re away from home.
  • Don’t count on voice calls. Mobile networks can get overloaded during an emergency, and text messages may stand a better chance of getting through than voice calls. Save your contact list someplace secure, and set up any chat groups before you need them.
  • Know your internet options. Some ground-based internet providers may fail or become overloaded in an emergency. Satellite-based ISPs such as Viasat can often continue working even when ground-based infrastructure is compromised. This can be a critical advantage if you need to set up alternate housing or follow the news during a disaster. But even a satellite connection needs power, so consider a generator or other backup solution if your area is prone to outages.
  • Mark yourself as safe. Once you are safe and connected, one of the most important steps you can take is to let others know you’re OK. The American Red Cross, Facebook, and other organizations offer ways to notify everyone you’re well. This can help emergency responders direct their resources to others in need while providing peace of mind to those who care about you.

No one wants to face a disaster, but modern smart devices can make coping with the unexpected as easy as possible. All it takes is a little planning — and connectivity.