Community Voices

Important safety tips for your family at start of hurricane season

Carmen Gonzalez Caldwell
Carmen Gonzalez Caldwell

With the start of the Atlantic hurricane season just weeks away, the all-important question is, ‘Are you ready?’

Given we haven’t had a hurricane impact our area in several years, many of us have probably become complacent. I have asked Kelly Starling, our partner at AT&T, to provide us with some important tips so that you are prepared for the hurricane season. Included: Making sure you have a way to communicate with loved ones when you need to most.

▪ 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.

▪ Consider getting an emergency phone. For example, the SpareOne Emergency Phone features a flashlight, glow-in-the-dark keypad, a panic siren, an SOS signal built into the phone, and a locate-and-alert service.

▪ Keep your mobile devices dry. Keep your device safe from the elements by storing it in a plastic bag or some other 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. Practice your emergency plan in advance.

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

▪ Use your cellphone cameras to take, store and send photos. Keeping the lines open for emergencies and video clips of damage to your insurance company.

▪ Use location-based technology like Family Map and Navigator to help you find evacuation routes 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:

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

▪ Many people are trying to use their phones at the same time during an emergency. The increased calling volume may create network congestion, leading to “fast busy” signals on your wireless phone or a slow dial tone on your landline phone. If this happens, 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. If there is severe weather, chances are many people will be attempting to place calls to loved ones, friends and business associates.

You can find more information at .

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