Make Your Cellphone a Lifeline During Disasters

If disaster forces you to evacuate your home or community, the most important thing, next to your safe exit, is to communicate with your friends/family that you are ok.  Our cell phones have become a lifeline and for some, our only means of communication.  So when you are in an area that is preparing for a Hurricane or severe weather evacuation, please be sure to consider the following: 


1.)    Our gadgets don’t like water – it can damage the internal components.  To protect your cell phone and other electronic devices, place them in everyday household zip lock bags and make sure they are sealed for protection.

2.)    Make sure your cell phone is fully charged prior to an evacuation.  Also, when you are leaving your house, don’t forget to bring your cell phone charger with you.  You’ll need it when you get to your destination.

3.)    Change your voicemail greeting to let people know of your status and where you are headed – perhaps give an alternate phone number for a friend or inform of your plan to find a Red Cross shelter.  Should someone try to call you, they will know your plan – even if your phone goes dead. 

The Evacuation.

1.)    Learn how to use text messaging.  In times of mass evacuations, everyone is trying to communicate and the network can get overloaded, resulting in a “fast busy” tone when you try to make a call.  In those times, send a text message – it will get through to another mobile device, as long as there is signal strength on your phone at the time you send the message.

2.)    As you are leaving the area, sometimes it can be good to download a few applications to your cell phone to help give you additional information to make smart evacuation decisions.  Applications that display weather radar and navigation of roads where you may be less familiar can be extremely helpful.

3.)    If your phone has an internet browser and you have arrived at a Red Cross shelter, go to and click on the “Safe & Well” link to register that you have safely arrived at a Shelter.  Tell your friends to check the website to get your updated status.

Jen O’Connell, a Red Cross volunteer and  wireless expert of over 12 years, has worked for companies such as Cingular Wireless (AT&T), Verizon Wireless, GTE Wireless and Powertel (T-Mobile). She is the person that the Wireless Industry, Wall Street and Media depend on to translate advances in wireless technology into simple, easily understandable concepts that are informative, entertaining and applicable for all.


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