Each time a major earthquake strikes in California, we're reminded of how to be better prepared when the next one hits. But even if you carefully went through your checklist - securing bookcases and stashing a shutoff wrench near the water heater, packing your earthquake emergency kit with water, food, toilet paper, kitty kibble, and medications - there could be something essential that you've forgotten. Is your mobile phone ready for “the big one?” You want it to be a useful tool, not a source of frustration during an emergency.
FEMA – the Federal Emergency Management Agency – offers these tips, so your phone can help keep you and your family safe:
- Program "In Case of Emergency" contacts – otherwise known as ICE – into your phone, so that emergency personnel will be able to quickly figure out who to contact if you are incapacitated. Be sure to let those contacts know any special medical needs you may have.
- Have backup power chargers handy – one for the car, in case the power is out for an extended period of time, and either a solar-powered or hand crank charger in the emergency kit.
- Pick an out-of-state contact for your entire family. Often it’s easier to call out of state after a big quake. It's good to have a central place to leave directions and messages.
- Whenever possible, text - rather than phone. Phone service is often overwhelmed after a major earthquake.
- Make sure all your contacts have your CURRENT phone number, email address, Facebook page, Twitter handle, and other social media accounts .
- If you are evacuated from your home, have your calls forwarded to your cell phone number.
- Download the USGS Seismic app (Android | iPhone) - the official phone app from the U.S. Geological Survey and sign up for other real-time feeds and notifications.
- Sign up for FEMA text messages for information on shelters and safety tips.
Tips for USING your phone during an emergency:
- Keep it brief.
- If you can't get through the first time, wait ten seconds before redialing. This helps reduce network congestion.
- Save the battery life of your phone by reducing the screen brightness, placing your phone in airplane mode and closing any apps you don't need
- If you're recharging your phone in the car, don't do it in the garage. You don't want to be breathing carbon monoxide fumes.
- If you're in the car during the quake, pull over. Don't text and drive is still the rule, even in an emergency.
- Resist the temptation to watch all those cool quake videos or finish watching the last episode of "Orange is the New Black." It can add to network congestion and inhibit emergency calls.
Got a tip of your own? Go ahead and share it.