As Hurricane Florence began to pummel the Carolinas with wind and rain on Thursday, people living in threatened areas were bracing themselves for possible damage to their homes and neighborhoods.
Technology can be vital to staying safe during the storm and keeping track of loved ones. Here is how to protect your devices and use your smartphone to your advantage while stretching its battery life.
Protecting Your Hardware and Data
Unfortunately, most computers and cellphones are not hurricane-proof. If you are evacuating the area and need to keep your technology dry, stick your devices in high-quality sealable plastic bags, said Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. Make sure to keep your devices in separate bags so that if one leaks, all of your devices are not affected.
In case of potential flooding in your home, an ice chest is a good place to store your technology, Dr. Redlener said. As a general rule, remember to move any valuable items to the highest floor in your house.
But if these methods fail and you end up with damaged devices, saving your data to a cloud service beforehand could minimize your losses. If it has been on your to-do list to activate iCloud, try to get it done before you risk losing Wi-Fi access.
Apps That Can Save the Day
There are several smartphone applications that may prove helpful during Hurricane Florence — just remember to download them early on. If there is a power outage, you do not want to waste battery life on major downloads.
The app Nextdoor, which uses geolocation to link up users who live nearby, can be useful for connecting with neighbors during emergencies, said Jonathan Sury, a project director at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness.
Mr. Sury also suggested downloading the Federal Emergency Management Agency app for tips on last-minute disaster preparedness, emergency notifications and information on how to locate shelters. The American Red Cross app provides first-aid protocol, and the National Weather Service app keeps users apprised of the storm’s latest developments, he said.
There’s also the app Zello, which works like a walkie-talkie and allows you to send audio or photos to local channels centered on emergency relief. Firechat is a messaging app that can work without internet access or cell signal, according to the company.
In case of a medical emergency, the ICE Contact app allows emergency medical workers to access important phone numbers and medical information.
Keeping Your Phone Alive
Apps are not much use if the power is out and your phone is dead.
Close any apps you are not actively using, turn your brightness down as low as possible and put your phone in a power-saving mode if that is an option. When you are not using your device, put it in Airplane mode, Mr. Sury said.
And although it may be tempting to scroll through social media to kill time, resist the urge if you are not going to have charging capabilities anytime soon.
Technology can help bolster emergency response efforts, Mr. Sury said, but it is unwise to rely upon it fully. He suggests writing down important information — like your credit card or driver’s license information — on a slip of paper to access in the storm’s aftermath.
“Sometimes no-tech solutions are really effective,” he said.