How to Turn Your Smartphone & Tablet into Mobile Disaster Preparedness Kits
The first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, Hurricane Arthur, is spinning off the Florida coast, and is expected to strengthen and track near parts of the Eastern Seaboard through the Fourth of July holiday.
And while it is not currently forecasted to make landfall, Arthur serves as a reminder that hurricane season has begun – and it’s time to get ready.
Mobile technology has become an essential communication tool during natural disasters, as more companies are creating applications for use during severe weather or other emergency situations. When landlines go down, mobile networks often stay active, keeping communication channels open for emergency crews, first responders and your residents.
During any kind of natural disaster, it’s important that property management companies and apartment communities keep their communication lines open with staff and residents. Here are some suggestions for turning cell phones and tablets into mobile disaster preparedness kits.
Make Sure You Receive Push Alerts
A number of apps are available to help you stay informed of weather updates, evacuation routes, shelter locations and other useful information during a disaster. One way to enhance their usefulness is to enable the push notification feature so you’re updated anytime there is a change.
Google also has a nifty tool called Google Public Alerts that sends alerts from authoritative sources like the U.S. National Weather Service.
Install Emergency Preparedness Apps
The Red Cross has several apps focused on natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, and floods. They also have apps that list locations for open shelters and provide first aid tips.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has an app that contains disaster safety tips, an interactive emergency kit list, emergency meeting location information, and a map with open shelters and open FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers.
Stock Up on Alternative Power Sources
With the high likelihood of a power outage during a hurricane, you need to be prepared with an alternate power source for your smartphone and tablet. A number of companies make add-on and external battery packs.
If renewable energy sources are more your thing, there are a growing number of solar-powered chargers. These can come in handy should you be without power for several days.
Protect Your Mobile Devices with Waterproof Cases
Since many natural disasters involve, it’s a good idea to invest in waterproof cases for all your electronic devices. If you’re looking to save a few bucks, zip-top freezer bags not only protect your mobile phone, but also can actually make it float if air is included when you seal it’s sealed.
Use a Cell Phone Signal Booster
Even when phone lines are disabled, there is often some kind of cell phone reception available. However, the few towers that remain operable are often overloaded, causing lost signals and dropped calls.
During a disaster, you should limit your activity to text messaging and leave the cell phone bandwidth for emergency providers. Barring that, consider investing in a cell phone signal booster that improves your chances of connecting to an operational cell tower.
Looking for WiFi?
When the power goes out, there are apps that can help you locate the nearest wireless connection. The Boingo Wi-Finder and Wi-Fi Finder apps use GPS to locate the closest network. The apps also plot results on a map, indicate the relative strength and security of each network and can give you directions to get there.
Stock a Backup Cell Phone Powered by AA Batteries
Keep a backup cell phone that is powered by AA batteries on hand in case primary mobile devices lose their charge or traffic overwhelms the system. SpareOne makes an emergency phone that looks just like a normal cell phone that can hold a charge for up to 15 years using a lithium battery.
Preserve Valuable Documents in the Cloud
This is a step you should complete long before a disaster strikes. If you’re using a web-based property management system on site, you’re covered. That said, it’s a good idea to make sure you upload insurance paperwork, financial information and any other information necessary for the operation of the specific apartment community that can be accessible by any mobile device.
Uploading photos and receipts for personal property can also expedite the insurance claims process.
Most gizmos and apps are usually free or cost up to $100, depending on the level of quality. Even if it costs a few extra bucks, being prepared for a natural disaster in a high-tech way could make a big difference in communicating when traditional means are inoperable.
Of course, technology can only do so much in the face of a natural disaster. Make sure your on-site teams and residents have the basics, like a disaster supplies kit.
What would you add to this list? Share them in the comments below.
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