How To Get In Touch With Loved Ones During a Disaster

Disasters often strike without warning–and if you have family or friends who are in or near harm’s way, you’re going to want to get in touch. Unfortunately, that isn’t always so easy: Cell signals and land lines can be jammed with the massive amount of calls flowing in and out of an area.

Here are some of the best tips we know for getting in touch, but this is by no means a complete list. If you have tips, please share them with us in the comments.

  • Don’t call. Leave the lines open for first responders.
  • Text. AT&T recommends using text messages rather than voice calls to avoid getting stymied by network congestion–the smaller data packets can often sneak through while the larger voice files get stuck.
  • Use Apps. While cell networks and phone lines are generally limited to one communication protocol, apps like GroupMe, Twitter, or Facebook Messenger can reach out and touch in several different ways.

    If You’re the loved one we’re trying to reach:

  • Get to a hardwired data connection. If you’re in an affected area, a cable internet connection might be your best bet–these fatter pipes are made to handle larger surges of traffic, and have a decent track record of withstanding worst case scenarios.
  • You tell us! Email your mom, update your Facebook status, tweet your condition and whereabouts. Whether you’re totally fine or in desperate need of help, let the viral nature of 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 folks try to reach you and the call goes straight to voicemail, they still get updated on your status.

Additional tips:
Use a battery case for your smartphone–that thing can’t make it through a whole day when it’s not constantly scanning for a signal. Use a Mophie Juicepack or similar to double or triple battery usage. If ETA on when solid communication lines will be back up is unknown, turn off LTE or WiFi to 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. Verizon (which has a list of tips for emergencies), recommends storing an emergency contact in your phone as ICE, which stands for In Case of Emergency, so authorities can quickly know who to reach out to if you’re unable to use your phone.
By Christina Bonnington

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