Community Voices

Crime Watch: Tips to keep your cellphone working during and after a hurricane

I received this information from our AT&T partner Kelly Starling and wanted to share with you — even I learned a few things that are important should a hurricane come our way.

AT&T, the only telecom company to be recertified for private-company voluntary disaster preparedness under the Department of Homeland Security’s new international standards, knows the importance of preparation.

In addition to conducting readiness drills and simulations year round, AT&T has invested more than $600 million in its Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) program.

Just as AT&T prepares its networks and employees for the hurricane season, the company is urging South Floridians to do the same. It offers the following tips to help keep you connected before, during and after a storm.

▪ Keep your mobile phone battery charged. In case of a power outage, have another way to charge your phone, such as an extra battery, car charger or device-charging accessory.

▪ Keep your mobile devices dry. Store your device in a plastic sandwich bag or some other type of protective covering.

▪ Have a family communications plan. Choose someone out of the area as a central contact. Make sure all family members know who to contact if they get separated.

▪ Program emergency contact numbers and email addresses into your mobile phone. Numbers should include the police department, fire station and hospital, as well as family members.

▪ Forward your home number to your mobile number in the event of an evacuation. Call forwarding is based out of the telephone central office. This means you will get calls from your landline phone even if your local telephone service is disrupted. If the central office is not operational, services such as voicemail and call forwarding may be useful.

▪ Track the storm and access weather information on your mobile device. Many homes lose power during severe weather. If you have a working mobile device with Internet access, you can watch or read local weather reports.

▪ Use your cellphone’s camera to shoot, store and send photos and video of damage to your insurance company.

▪ Use location-based technology. Services such as Navigator and FamilyMap can help you find evacuation routes, avoid traffic from downed trees or power lines, and track a family member’s wireless device if you get separated.

During evacuations, the storm and its aftermath, network resources will likely be taxed. To help ensure that emergency personnel have open lines, keep these tips in mind:

▪ Try text messaging. During an emergency situation, text messages may go through more quickly than voice calls because they require fewer network resources.

Be prepared for high call volume. During an emergency, increased calling volume may create network congestion. If you get “fast busy” signals on your wireless phone or a slow dial tone on your landline phone, hang up, wait several seconds and then try the call again. This allows your original call data to clear the network before you try again.

Keep nonemergency calls to a minimum. Limit your calls to the most important ones. If there is severe weather, chances are many people will be attempting to place calls.

For more information, visit att.com/vitalconnections.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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