Natural disaster responses increasingly rely on electronic devices for communication. In the aftermath of a destructive storm, your phone or tablet can be a literal lifeline — so it needs to actually work.
Losing the ability to communicate with the outside world makes it harder to coordinate relief efforts and downright impossible to let friends and family know you’re safe.
Personal safety should always take top priority, but if your family disaster plan relies on smartphones or laptops in any way, it’s crucial that you take steps to prevent them from being damaged. Here are some ways to do just that.
Waterproof Your Devices
Obviously, keeping your electronics dry is crucial in a cyclone, and the easiest way to do this is to pack all of your tech in airtight, watertight plastic containers.
If you have a vacuum sealer, perfect; seal your backup batteries, chargers, adaptors and cords in bags before packing them. If you don’t, Ziploc bags work well.
In either case, silica gel packets provide extra dryness insurance, so long as they aren’t already saturated with moisture. You can recharge saturated silica in a pinch by drying it out in a 95-120C oven for a few hours, but if you’re unsure how dry it is, buying fresh stuff from the hardware store is your best bet.
Diversify Your Charger Portfolio
A phone or laptop with a dead battery is completely useless, so be sure to pack a lot of different battery-replenishing options in your go bag.
Fully-charged external batteries are a must, and USB-compatible car chargers let you charge devices from any car with a working battery — just be sure to unplug the adaptor when you’re done.
Throw in a power strip or two to make the most of any functional power outlets you encounter, plus some extra connecting cables, and you should be fully covered.
Get the Most Out of Your Smartphone
The pocket-sized supercomputers we all carry around are lifesavers in an emergency situation, even when mobile service or Wi-Fi is unavailable.
Your smartphone can handle everything from first-aid apps to downloaded maps to quick-access document storage; figure out what information you need access to and download it to your phone.
While you’re at it, take necessary precautions to maximise your phone’s battery life, which could make your life much easier in an extended power outage.
If you haven’t already, be sure to activate your phone’s emergency contact functions. Android users can add emergency contacts to their lock screen, and the Medical ID function of Apple’s Health app allows you to make relevant medical and contact information lock screen-accessible.
Back Up Absolutely Everything
If you rely on a physical hard drive for important file backups — or worse, don’t back anything up at all — get a cloud backup running ASAP.
Don’t forget to take photos and/or video of your house, yard, and any other property you have insured in case you need to file claims — and back those up, too.
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
A physical meeting place is crucial to an IRL emergency plan, but you should have a social media “meeting” plan too — especially if you have out-of-towners worrying about you. Consumer Reports recommends choosing one platform for check-ins and ensuring that every family member has the relevant app installed on their phone.
As for far-flung family and friends, designate one person who lives out of the disaster zone as your liaison. Ask this person to be available for check-ins and do the work of updating other concerned parties so you can focus on more important things.