Last summer there was a huge power outage that left most of Orange County in the dark. And with wildfire season upon us, it's best to be prepared. What better way than by having a smartphone by your side?
According to AT&T, about 70 percent of 911 calls are placed from a mobile phone and 74 percent of consumers have used a mobile phone in an emergency. According to one recent study, 19 percent of consumers had used their mobile phone to get help in an emergency in the last 30 days, AT&T reports.
Recognizing the role mobile phones play in emergencies, Consumer Action and AT&T has released tips to help consumers make the best use of smartphones and wireless technology in an emergency. The nonprofit education and advocacy organization is working together to educate the public about options for using smartphones and mobile technology before, during and after emergencies occur.
"Emergencies strike when we least expect it, which is why being prepared is so important," said Ken McEldowney, executive director of Consumer Action. "Our goal is to increase consumer awareness about their options for using wireless technology to prepare for and respond to emergency situations."
"Each day new wireless technologies are being developed that can help make families, businesses and communities safer," said Ken McNeely, President of AT&T California. "We're glad to be able to work with Consumer Action to help educate consumers about these choices."
11 Great Ways Your Smartphone Can Work Smarter in an Emergency:
1. Be Prepared: Use apps, such as FEMA's emergency preparedness app<http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fema/id474807486?mt=8>, to develop and implement emergency preparedness plans for your family, colleagues and loved ones.
2. Stay Charged: Use solar-powered and hand crank chargers and batteries. These chargers allow you to rely on your electronics and wireless devices even in a power outage.
3. Stay Connected: Use database and location-based apps to find loved ones during and after a disaster. Register yourself with the American Red Cross "Safe and Well"<https://safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.php> database and search for other loved ones that have registered to say they are okay. You can also use AT&T FamilyMap<https://familymap.wireless.att.com/finder-att-family/welcome.htm>, which provides peace of mind by enabling you to conveniently locate a family member from your wireless phone or PC and know that your family's information is secure and private.
4. Keep It in the Cloud: Store your important documents such as personal and financial records in a password-protected area in the Cloud. New cloud services allow you to access your vital information anytime from anywhere with Internet access and to safely store your work where it's not vulnerable to a damaged or left-behind computer.
5. Get Help! Consider downloading a smartphone global positioning satellite app. GPS phone trackers have the ability to deliver short messages and your GPS pinpoint location to a preferred list of contacts of your choosing in the event of an emergency.
6. Use Quick Response (QR) Codes: QR code technology can help first responders prevent misdiagnoses and adverse drug reactions in treatment of emergency victims.
7. See & Be Seen/Send an SOS: Use your smartphone as a flashlight when the power is down. There are flashlight apps for almost all smartphones (many of them are free) that use either your screen or camera flash to help you find what you need during a power outage - or help you to be found. Many flashlight apps even offer a Morse code SOS feature.
8. Help Others: Apps such as Phone Aid<http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/phone-aid/id293019352?mt=8> offer a series of quick educational and instructive "how to" slideshows designed to help jog your memory on skills such as administering CPR. It also shows basic first aid measures you may need to perform while you wait for emergency personnel to respond.
9. Locate Resources: Use mobile maps to find help and resources after a disaster. American Red Cross: Shelter View<http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/american-red-cross-shelter/id419258261?mt=8> provides a searchable map of shelter locations by address, city, state and/or ZIP code and is updated every 30 minutes from the National Shelter System. It even includes the shelter capacity and how many residents are currently there.
10. Stay Informed: Create a list of Twitter handles to follow during a disaster. For example, the U.S. Geological Survey is currently studying how they can give better earthquake information via Twitter. Their official handle, @USGSted, tweets out information on occurrences of earthquakes with magnitudes of 5.5 or higher. They currently have a California-specific earthquake handle-@USGS_EQ_CA.
11. Spread the Word: Use social media and smartphone apps to help disseminate information about severe weather in real time and warn others. The NOAA Now<http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/noaa-now/id425914352?mt=8> app provides weather info from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including reports of hurricanes, tropical storms, mainland storms and tornado and severe thunderstorm alerts.