As a part of the insurance industry, there is one thing we know for sure – there will be another disaster – it could be another hurricane, a tornado, a bad winter storm, or a bomb explosion. In fact, Teresa in our Micco office has a son going to MIT in Boston during the Boston Marathon bombings and manhunt, so I figured this would be a timely blog. . . don’t worry. . . he was not harmed.
Whether these disasters strike without warning or you have several days to plan. . . finding out if friends, family, and co-workers are OK is a top priority.
Unfortunately, getting in touch isn’t always easy: Cell towers can be overwhelmed with the sudden increase in traffic and land lines can be jammed with the massive amount of calls flowing in and out of an affected area. In a natural disaster the cell towers could be damaged and out of commission.
The following are some tips for getting in touch. This is by no means a complete list. If you have additional tips, please share them in the comments.
- Don’t make a phone call. Leave the lines open for emergency personnel.
- Use Text. This is the method used by Teresa’s son. Text messages use less bandwidth and the smaller data packets can often get through much faster than voice. There are lots of stories of text working after Sandy when phone calls didn’t. Make sure you have the mobile phone numbers of friends, family, and staff in an easily accessible contact list.
- Use Smartphone Apps. Cellular networks and phone lines are generally limited to only one communication method whereas apps like GroupMe, Twitter, or Facebook allow you to leave messages in several different ways.
If you’re the person someone is trying to reach then:
- Find a hardwired data connection if at all possible. If you’re in an affected area, a cable Internet connection might be your best bet; because of the generally faster connection speeds they are able to handle larger surges of traffic, and have a decent track record of withstanding worst-case scenarios.
- Tell us you are OK! Use email and/or all of your social platforms. Update your Facebook status, tweet your condition and whereabouts. Whether you’re totally fine or in desperate need of help, let your on-line world know and let the Internet work for you. You’d be surprised how many people are worried.
- Update your voicemail message. If you can make only one call, make it to your voicemail. Change your outgoing message so when others try to call you and it goes straight to voicemail, they can get an update on your current status.
Make sure you have access to power. Any mobile device will be useless without power to recharge. Here are some tips on extending the battery life of your devices:
- Use a battery case for your smartphone.
- Turn off unnecessary connections. If you can’t make phone calls then put your phone on airplane mode to turn off cellular, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connections. This will help conserve extra battery power.
- Also, be sure to keep your emergency contact list up to date.
If something does happen and a loved one is injured or killed, authorities, your employer, or organization officials should be able to get in touch with a trusted friend or family member of yours.
Lastly, I have often recommended keeping your business card or contact info tucked between your phone and the case to help a good Samaritan in returning your phone even if the phone is dead or has password protection. During an emergency, this can allow others to identify you or locate your emergency contact if you are injured or killed and other identification (wallet, drivers license, etc) is unavailable.