As Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, users bracing themselves for the storm can take a few steps to turn their iPhone or Android into a survival tool and prepare for power outages, data outages and damage.
When it comes to extreme weather, it’s a good idea to plan on data outages as high winds and flooding can damage critical infrastructure that delivers power and data to cell phone towers.
With a little bit of planning, users can download the apps and information needed to stay in contact and informed with the iPhone or Android devices even after data connections fail.
In addition to a smartphone it’s a good idea to make sure you are stocked up on first aid supplies and food, but judging by the empty shelves in major cities it may be too late to go out in search of food.
10 Tips and Apps to Prepare for Hurricane Sandy
In 15 minutes, the following tips and apps can be stored on the iPhone or Android for use after power and data connections fail. The video below from Verizon Wireless is a good place to start.
With power likely to fail, it’s a good idea to keep gadgets charged up. This means leaving your iPhone or Android on the charger instead of in your pocket, but you’ll appreciate it when the power goes off.
If you have external battery cases for the iPhone, or a ZaggSparq this is a good time to make sure they are also charged. Android users should look for their spare batteries and rotate them on to the charger.
Many wireless stores are staying open as long as possible so users can find an extra battery.
Find a Car Charger & Power Inverter
If the power is out for extended periods it’s a good idea to have a car charger handy. A small USB car charger can charge up a typical smartphone in an hour or so. Users without a car, should make friends with a neighbor who has a car, and bring a spare car charger.
Another good item is a power inverter. This will allow users to charge a laptop or other gadget in a car, but make sure car is running so the battery doesn’t go dead.
First Aid App
If the power and data connections are out, a good first aid app on the phone is a great way to stay prepared. These apps store information locally, so as long as the phone has a charge users can look up potentially life saving information.
The American Red Cross First Aid App for iPhone and Android offers a good deal of information and is free on both platforms.
Make sure the app is downloaded while there is still a data connection. The app includes step by step instructions and videos to help deal with emergency situations.
Hurricane Prep Apps
While these apps need a data connection to work, it’s a good idea to find a local weather app and check out the American Red Cross Hurricane Apps for iPhone and Android.
Local news stations often offer the most up to date local weather, with better results than The Weather Channel, so it’s best to search the app store for the call letters for a local news station.
The American Red Cross also offers apps that track the weather, can send an “I’m Safe” alert to Facebook, Twitter and texts. There’s also a way to find local shelters and more.
These free apps allow users to turn their phone’s flash into a flashlight or strobe light.
Plan to Text, Limit Calls
After a storm cell networks are often overloaded and under stress. Users should limit calls to emergencies and keep calls short.
When possible it’s a better idea to text. Texting works when phone calls may fail and uses less battery life. Even without a texting plan, it’s better to pay extra to communicate easier in an emergency.
Conserve Battery Life
When facing an extended power outage be sure to take a few steps to keep battery life going longer. The easiest steps to take are to turn off WiFi and Bluetooth and turn down the screen brightness.
iPhone users can follow these tips to get better battery life.
It’s also important to avoid streaming or playing movies and games, as these will drain the battery faster.
Keep Local Emergency Numbers Handy
911 is likely to be overloaded, and depending on your location the call may be routed to a State Patrol agency instead of local police.
Experts recommend looking up phone numbers for the fire, police and other emergency services and storing them on the phone. It’s also a good idea to find those for nearby cities or areas where you might evacuate to.
When data connections go out the maps stored in the cloud are useless. It’s a good idea to download a local copy of maps to the iPhone or Android.
Android makes it easy to download a region to the phone for offline use, as shown in the video below.
The iPhone won’t allow users to download maps with the built-in maps app, but users can download apps that offer offline use. GPS drive allows users to pre-load maps for offline use, and there are many others.
Hurricane Sandy is a good excuse to buy a waterproof case for the iPhone or Android device, but if all the local stores are out, a simple ziploc bag is good enough.
This sounds cheap, but it’s better than dealing with a dead smartphone when out in wet and windy weather.
Take Photos of Damage
After the storm passes, use the phone camera to take photos of any storm damage before cleaning up. Insurance companies often require proof of damages, but there isn’t always time to wait around for an adjuster to arrive.
As soon as possible, it’s a good idea to upload these photos to Dropbox, Google+ or iCloud for safe keeping.