Crime

These hurricane cellphone tips can help you, your family when disaster strikes

In this file photo, a hurricane victim talks on his cellphone to a Red Cross official as he tries to recover belongings from his destroyed ground floor apartment.
In this file photo, a hurricane victim talks on his cellphone to a Red Cross official as he tries to recover belongings from his destroyed ground floor apartment. Miami Herald File

As we do every year during hurricane season, here are some great cellphone and communications tips from our AT&T partner Kelly Starling:

Readiness drills … field disaster simulations … table-top emergency exercises. These are just a few ways AT&T readies its networks and personnel for a natural disaster. This preparation, coupled with a $600 million Network Disaster Recovery program, is key to AT&T keeping customers connected during the hurricane season.

Just as AT&T has a plan in place, the company is encouraging you to do the same. When preparing for a hurricane, remember these tips:

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

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Carmen Gonzalez Caldwell

▪ Keep your mobile devices dry. The biggest threat to your device during a hurricane is water. Keep it safe from the elements by storing it in a plastic bag or some other type of protective covering, like an Otterbox case.

▪ 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 all of your emergency contact numbers and e-mail 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. Many homes lose power during severe weather. You can stay up to speed by accessing local weather on your smartphone.

▪ Camera phones provide assistance. If you have a camera phone, take, store and send photos and video clips of damage to your insurance company.

▪ Use location-based technology. Services like AT&T Navigator and AT&T FamilyMap can help you find evacuation routes or avoid traffic from downed trees or power lines. They can also track a family member’s wireless device if you get separated.

▪ Limit social media activity and non-emergency calls. This will help limit network congestion and allow for emergency communications to go through.

▪ Try texting vs. calling. During an emergency situation, text messages may go through more quickly than voice calls because they require fewer network resources. Depending on your text or data plan, additional charges may apply.

▪ Be prepared for high call volume. During an emergency, many people are trying to use their phones at the same time. 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.

You can find more information and tips for disaster preparedness at www.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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