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CHIPS Articles: National Preparedness Month: Be Tech Ready

National Preparedness Month: Be Tech Ready
By CHIPS Magazine - September 7, 2017
September is National Preparedness Month (NPM) which serves as a reminder to all of us of the criticality of being ready for any emergency. To assist, the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency are providing resources and tools that include a wide range of emergency planning advice.

The theme for NPM 2017 is “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.” While preparing for a natural disaster or any emergency can be a daunting task because there is so much to do, technology has made it easier to prepare and recover from disasters. On the other hand, critical technologies can be unreliable during an emergency if you haven’t planned to keep your devices protected and powered up, warns FEMA.

Here are some tips from FEMA to make sure you are tech ready in an emergency.

Stay Informed

During a natural disaster, it is important to keep track of family and friends, storm paths, evacuation routes, roads that may be blocked, and the shelters that are open to the public. FEMA recommends that you:

  • Download the FEMA app. Receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five different locations anywhere in the United States.
  • Sign up for FEMA text messages. Use your cellphone’s text messaging capability to receive text message updates from FEMA (standard message and data rates apply).
  • Sign up to receive preparedness tips: text PREPARE to 43362 (4FEMA). To unsubscribe (at any time): text STOP to 43362 (4FEMA)
  • Search for open shelters (for disaster survivors): text SHELTER and a Zip Code to 43362 (4FEMA)
  • List of all keywords you can subscribe to: text LIST to 43362 (4FEMA)
  • Follow local government on social media to stay up-to-date with official information before, during, and after a disaster. Sign up for Twitter alerts from trusted government agencies to be notified when critical information is released to the public. Visit the alerts setup page of the agency you want to receive notifications from, for example, twitter.com/fema/alerts.

Keep in Contact with Family and Friends

During a disaster, you will be frantic for news of the safety of your loved ones. Use text messages, social media and email to connect with friends and family during emergencies. Mobile networks can become overwhelmed during emergencies, making it difficult to place and receive phone calls. Text messages require less bandwidth, which means they are able to be transmitted more reliably during situations when many people are trying to use their mobile phones at the same time.

Social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter offer an effective way to update family and friends during emergencies. Facebook’s Safety Check feature allows users to easily post a status update indicating that they are safe during a time of disaster.

You can also register with the American Red Cross’s Safe & Well site to let family and friends know you’re OK. After registering, you can select a message to let family and friends know you’re safe. Concerned family and friends can search this list to find their loved one’s first name, last name, an “as of date” and the “safe and well” message.

Keep Smartphones and Electronic Devices Charged

Have an emergency charging option for your phone and other mobile devices. Smartphones are a vital link to receive emergency alerts and warnings, so it’s important to make sure you can keep them powered up in an emergency.

Prior to severe weather, make sure that all of your electronic devices are fully charged. If the power goes out, preserve battery power by minimizing device use. Keep a back-up power source on hand to recharge your phone so that you can stay connected even during an extended power outage.

Keep a portable phone charger in your vehicle at all times, and consider purchasing a back-up power supply to keep in your vehicle as well because it is impossible to predict how long you may be displaced from your home. Change the settings on your phone to low power mode or place it on airplane mode to conserve energy.

Store important documents in a secure, password-protected jump drive or in the cloud

There are a number of apps for mobile devices that make storing documents easier. Use your phone’s camera as a scanning device to capture electronic versions of important documents, such as insurance policies, identification documents, and medical records. Don’t forget to include your pet’s information.

Back-up your computer to protect photos and other important electronic documents. Scan old photos to protect them from loss.

Keep your contacts updated and synced across all of your channels, including phone, email and social media. This will make it easy to reach out to the right people quickly to get information and provide updates. Consider creating a group listserv of your top contacts. Or create a group chat via a texting app or a thread for family, friends and coworkers to communicate quickly during a disaster.

Sign up for direct deposit and electronic banking through your financial institution so you can access your payroll funds and make electronic payments wherever you are. Federal benefit recipients can sign up by calling (800) 333-1795 or at GoDirect.org.

Find more planning advice on https://www.ready.gov/september.

Theme for NPM 2017 -- “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.”
Theme for NPM 2017 -- “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.”
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