Did you know that a text message (aka SMS) can save a life? An SMS uses less network capacity than a phone call. During or after a severe storm, sending an SMS in non-life and death situations frees up the wireless network so emergency responders can connect to people in need.
This is just one tip provided by telecommunication companies like AT&T, Cellular South, and Verizon Wireless. Each hurricane season, those companies and others publish briefs for techie insiders and consumers alike to 1) highlight new advancements in disaster-response telecommunication technology and 2) teach consumers how to best use wireless devices during and after severe storms.
November marks the end of hurricane season, the perfect time to take heed of this advice. A sampling of the most important consumer tips appears below.
- Before a storm strikes AT&T recommends you:
Make a Communications Plan.
Designate someone outside the storm-zone as a central contact, and make certain that all family members know whom to contact if they become separated. Practice your emergency plan in advance.
Program emergency contact numbers and e-mail addresses into your mobile phone.
Learn How to Forward Landline Calls to your Cell.
If possible, forward your home number to your wireless number if there is an evacuation. Because call forwarding is based out of the telephone central office, you will get incoming calls from your landline phone even if your local telephone service is disrupted at your home. In the unlikely event that the central office is not operational, services such as voice mail, call forwarding, remote access call forwarding and call forwarding busy line/don’t answer may be useful.
Get Alternative Chargers for your Phone.
Keep your wireless phone batteries charged at all times. Have an alternative plan to recharge your battery in case of a power outage, such as charging your wireless device by using your car charger or having extra mobile phone batteries or disposable mobile phone batteries on hand.
Ziploc your Cell.
The biggest threat to your device during a hurricane is water, so keep your equipment safe from the elements by storing it in a baggie or some other type of protective covering.
- During and after a storm, Cellular South advises:
Text more, Call Less.
During and immediately after a storm, limit your personal calls so capacity is available for 9-1-1 calls and emergency responders. When possible, send text messages instead of placing voice calls. Text messages require less network capacity and are more likely than voice calls to reach their destination during periods of network congestion.
No BlueTooth and more Battery Saving Tips.
Turn off your Bluetooth, data connections, such as auto sync for PDA and smartphone users, and turn backlight down to the minimum levels to conserve battery life. When the batter is extremely low, turn phone off unless in use.
Document Damage using your Cell Phone Camera.
If you have a camera phone, take and store photos — even video clips, if possible — of damaged property to send to your insurance company.