Friday, August 26, 2011

Tech Suggestions for Hurricane Irene

As Hurricane Irene hones in on the Eastern Seaboard, rather than bringing in my patio furniture, I began to think about my devices and how I would get emergency help in case electricity went out. Gone are the days of the battery run transistor radio that I would stow under my pillow at night to lull me off to sleep and was my emergency tether in times of trouble. Now, I get most of my news via a cable connection.

My iPhone has a long life battery for a cellphone, but that will give out after a few hours of no electricity. My iPad’s battery lasts 10 hours, and that should be long enough to last through a minor outage, but not a prolonged one. My husband's Kindle has the best battery life, so he should be set for book reading for a while.

If cable goes out, I’m sunk because my Internet (but not my iPhone mobile Internet) is tied to the cable company. Even my home phone system, except for one old-fashioned dialup line, runs over the cable network. Making preparations to live without electricity for a couple of days is daunting. Here are some steps that you and I can take so our entire communications network won’t be disrupted.

  • Charge everything. I am charging my cellphone, iPad, laptop and anything else I can think of so that they will be ready for a power outage.
  • Consider buying backup batteries and emergency chargers. You can get backup batteries for most cell phones and “emergency chargers” for the iPhone and the iPad. I’m not endorsing any brands here, but I found a number of them listed on Since time is of the essence, I think you’d be better off going to your local RadioShack.
  • Download a free local news radio app for your smartphone. I downloaded an app from my local CBS affiliate that lets me listen to the radio over my cell phone. The best way to do this is to go to the web address of the local radio station you want to follow during this crisis, and find their app. This may be the only time I’ll want to do this, but if the power goes out and I want to know what is going on, I’ll be able to listen to the local radio.
  • Turn off data roaming to conserve power. If you find that you are draining your smartphone’s battery, turn off data searching. The phone won’t be wasting its power trying to get a signal it can’t get because your wireless network is down, but it will still be available to receive phone calls from loved ones.
  •  If you run out of battery power on your cell and simply have to have your cellphone, consider using your car’s battery as a charger. Make sure you drive the car outside of your garage before you turn the vehicle on to charge the battery, to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.  
  •  The government says we should all have a battery operated radio with the NOAA weather channel. I’m going to stop by my local RadioShack to see if they have any left. And, of course, buy regular batteries. You’ll need them for the radio and for your flashlights. (Of course the iPhone and iPad have a Flashlight app you can download for free from the App Store.)
  • Consider signing up for Twitter and “following” the state and local government authorities, NOAH, and your local newspaper. Twitter can be the fastest way to find out news during an emergency and can keep you informed if the cable or TV networks go out.
  • Texting. During some emergencies, the cell phone voice lines are clogged but since texting uses a different channel, texts can get out. If you don’t know how to text on your phone, consider figuring it out before the next emergency strikes.
  • The government suggests that you designate someone out of the danger area to be your “go to” phone call if you become separated from your family for some reason. So if your son John gets taken to a shelter or daughter Mary can’t get home but is fine, you can call the out of state person and learn that Mary and John are OK.
  • Also, if you use ATM machines to get money from your bank account, remember that they are computers and may be down as well. Go early and withdraw some money. It can't hurt.
Please feel free to comment on any of these suggestions and provide your own suggestions on using your technology during an emergency. Times have changed and so has the way we get information. I hope all you East Coasters stay safe during this hurricane and I hope this information has been helpful for others who may face emergencies.


Deby said...

Although the iPhone and iPad have a Flashlight app, using it will probably deplete the battery of the devices very quickly. Making the screen bright uses a lot of battery power. If you're relying on your devices for access to information or communication, you probably don't want to run down the batteries by using them as flashlights.

Esther Surden said...

Thank you for your observation, Deby!