I think that in the event of a large scale incident everyone's initial reaction will be to use their smart phone for emergency communication and as a source for news. The smart phone has become an integral part of our daily existence. In one small device we have the ability to communicate both verbally and in writing. We can send and receive texts, emails, and social media posts. We can search for answers on the internet to most of lifes problems. We can get directions, take pictures and record videos. You get the picture. That's a good thing....sort of.
Smart phones are very convenient, there's no doubt about that. However, convenience comes at a price. Sometimes that price is marked in big read letters on the front of the package, and sometimes its hidden and you don't realize it until its too late. For all the convenience they provide smart phones can be a pain in the ass also. They're fragile, sensitive to adverse conditions, require a constant power source and a cellular or wifi signal to provide all of those wonderful conveniences we have become accustomed to having on demand at our finger tips.
With all that being said, they're still the best thing going. They bundle so many features and capabilities into one small, portable, relatively inexpensive package. Here are some of the most common problems, and solutions to those problems that will help you retain your ability to communicate in the event of a disaster.
- Cellular network is not available - there is nothing you can do to fix this issue. You can try to work around this issue by finding an available WiFi signal that you can use, but you will not be able to restore the cellular network.
- Saving Battery Power - There is a setting on your phone for Power Saving. Turn it on immediately. Turn off WiFi, and Blue Tooth....both of those are power hogs. Turn the ringer down and the vibration off. Turn off notifications for anything that is not critical. You dont want bullshit apps vibrating your phone and depleting your battery. Stop checking your phone every 20 seconds. Conserving the power you DO have reduces your need to recharge your battery. Rest assured, your device will run out of power at the worst possible time.
- Recharging Your Battery - Have a secondary power source. Have a charging cord. I keep a small battery source like this, short charging cord, micro-usb to usb-c adapter, and micro-usb to iPhone adapter in a small waterproof container like this in my truck at all times. Keep your battery source charged. Keep an AC wall adapter in your vehicle. You can use other battery sources to charge your smart phone like a laptop, PC, car battery, solar charger, automotive battery jump-starter. Think outside the box.
- Critical Contact Information - Keep your top 10 critical contacts information somewhere else in addition to your phone. I keep my top 10 in a piece of laminated card stock the size of a business card. Business cards fit everywhere. I would hate to find a working telephone and not be able to contact someone critical because I cant remember their number....which is stored in my broken or powerless phone.
- Critical Documents - I keep images of my passport, drivers license, social security card, birth certificate....and all of those documents for each member of my family in a hidden, password encrypted folder on the sim card of my phone. If you need them, you have them, and you can open them on your phone and email them anywhere....like an Embassy.
- Texting - This is the preferred way to communicate in a disaster. Texts queue up on the network in a different way than cellular calls. Texts will stay in the queue and be delivered even if the network is going up and down. Texts will also deliver in areas of very poor signal reception. I would build a group text list that you can blast a single text to multiple people versus sending multiple texts. Texting also leaves a permanent message on your phone unless you delete it. You can refer back to that text instead of trying to remember what was said during a stressful and overwhelming moment.
- Location Services - GPS may or may not function properly if the cellular network is not available. Cached data is still view-able in Google Earth even if you're not connected to the network. If you have time, and most often you will, cache the area you're in and you can use Google Earth as a basic navigation tool in that cached area. If you're leaving, cache the route to the area and the area you're moving to.
- Learn The Skills - Learn the skills you're replacing with your cell phone. The phone is great, but when the phone is no longer usable, you will be under alot less stress if you know how to actually perform some of the skills your phone is doing for you....like navigation. Learn how to read a map. Learn how to determine roughly where you are. Implement some alternate methods of communication, like 2-way radios.
- Have A Plan - Don't just try to wing it as things happen. this is a recipe for disaster. Plenty of stuff will happen that you aren't able to plan for, give yourself every opportunity to be successful by having some sort of plan in place. Develop a plan, and then practice it.
The key to surviving any type of disaster is keeping your wits about you. Having a minimal amount of gear in your vehicle, or on your person, that will help you execute a contingency plan can be a life saver. At a minimum it will give you options and reduce mental stress, which will allow you to more clearly process and act on the environment you are in.
Here are some examples of types of gear mentioned in the post:
- USB-C adapter for newer Samsung Phones
- Water Proof Container
- Slim Power Bank
- Emergency Charger - uses CR123 Batteries
Remember I'm not an expert, and I don't play one on the Internet. My opinions are exactly that....my opinions. Thank you all for reading and being patient with my lack of posts while I sorted a few things out. As always, comments, suggestions, topics are always welcome....criticism not so much :)