Cell Phone Tips to Prepare for Hurricane Irene

How to prepare for the next hurricane disaster?  Does your family have an emergency communications plan for when you cannot reach your friends and family with cell phones because the network is jammed?  Cell phone operators cannot prevent the worst from happening and consumers and small business owners should be prepared before and after the storm hits. Here are 10 tips that should help you be prepared for the worst during a disaster.
  1. Have a two phones ready possibly from two different carriers. One corded or landline phone and one mobile phone. The landline phone is critical because it is not dependent on electricity in the case of a long power outage.
  2. Make sure all of your local emergency contact numbers and e-mail addresses are in your mobile phone. Police department, coast guard, fire station and hospital, as well as your family members.
  3. Keep your cell phone batteries charged at all times and keep an extra on hand. Have a plan to charge your battery in case of a long power outage using your car charger or generator.
  4. Keep your wireless phone dry in a dry pack or waterproof housing. If you phone gets wet or is exposed to excessive humidity you might not be able to use it.
  5. You can track the storm and access weather information on your wireless device but don't use too much phone battery power or data on the phone to jam the network. Try not to upload or download a lot of video during the storm.   Thousands of homes will lose power during the storm and if you have a wireless device that provides access to the Internet, you can watch weather reports through mobile TV.  
  6. Download one of the many weather apps if you have smartphone to track your local weather Accuweather, Weather Undergound and Weather.com are some of the best apps to see the radar.
  7. Have a camera and video phone on hand to take and send photos and video clips of damaged property or people in need of emergency help. It is also helpful to document the damage for your your insurance company.
  8. Use location-based mapping technology from Google and other services to help with evacuation routes or avoid traffic congestion from downed trees or power lines. Download and use location based friend applications to track a family members and friends on wireless device in case you get separated.
  9. During an emergency cell phone networks are typically jammed by multiple people trying to use their phones at the same time. The increased calling volume or data traffic on the network can create network congestion, leading to a "fast busy" signal on your mobile phone or a slow dial tone on your landline phone. If this happens, hang up, be patient and wait several seconds and then try the call again. This allows your original call data to clear the network before you try again. Keep non-emergency calls and usage of video uploading and downloading to a minimum. If there is severe weather, chances are many people will be attempting to place calls to loved ones, friends and business associates.
  10. Use text messaging as much as you can during an emergency as messages may go through more quickly than voice calls. Text messages require fewer network resources and will get priority before voice calls.
Cell phone carriers do recognized the risk of their cell phone towers going down during an emergency and typically send out emergency teams and boost capacity in the area with additional towers.  This usually includes the installation of back-up generators at cell sites and switching facilities. They also try and locate critical communication equipment in less vulnerable areas and try to upgrade copper wiring with fiber optic cable. Also, elevation of switches on the network above expected flood levels and extra protection of physical facilities against flooding is also important.

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