Your cell phone may be useless after a major disaster

You wake up, you check your phone.

If you need directions, you check your phone.

If you don't know if you need an umbrella, you check your phone.

We use it for virtually everything. Chances are, you don't even know the phone number of your best friend because you rely on your phone directory.

For many, the phone is their No. 1 source of information. But if there is a major natural or manmade disaster, it may be virtually useless. If the power grid goes down, your battery will only last for so long. If cellular service goes down, you may have no signal. If you can't find a place to get WiFi, you have no Internet.

Information will be key after a disaster. That's why your best way to get 21st century information may be a 19th century solution: radio.

"(You need) a hand crank radio, AM-FM, that you can get information from the authorities about what's going on and, 'Is there an evacuation order? Are they telling people to go one direction or another?'" said Eric Holdeman, who has decades of experience as a disaster response planner.

Information is critical. "Without it, you're kind of flying blind," he added.

"We do not expect to be able to use traditional forms of communication," Karina Shagren with Washington state Emergency Management said.

Some radios also have solar power. You can also find all-in-one hand crank emergency devices that will serve as a flashlight, radio, and has USB ports for charging your phone.


Put important numbers on a card for your wallet or purse so you can call from a landline if you can't use your smartphone.

Also consider getting two-way radios so you can talk to loved ones who may be separated from you. Many have ranges of 20 miles or more.

The online traffic apps you use may not work, but there are offline map apps you can download at a cost. Use them sparingly as they'll eat up your battery power. If possible, have available a basic folding map of the area where you live. You may need it if the road you are relying on to get to safety is not useable.

After the disaster happens, the last thing you want is to lose battery power on your phone just in case the grid is working. Plug it in immediately since you never know when you will lose power. Shut down all unnecessary apps, Push notifications, GPS and location services. Decrease your screen brightness. Shut off the phone if you don't need it and forward calls to a landline if you can.

Stay off your phone as much as possible. An overtaxed cell network could make it harder for emergency services to communicate.

Join KING 5’s Disaster Preparedness Facebook group and learn how you and your community can get ready for when disaster strikes.

© 2017 KING-TV


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