Following the Boston Marathon tragedy this month, organizations such as Google leveraged technology to instantly connect people and assist in the logistics of the tragedy.
No doubt, the Internet—which includes online news sites and social media platforms—is an increasingly popular and powerful channel to gather emergency information, coordinate resources, and give loved ones critical safety updates.
Such serious national events raise the question of family tech readiness. If a natural disaster or man-caused disaster such as terrorism affected your family tomorrow, how would you communicate? How would you use technology ensure safety and recovery? What is the plan? Have you shared the plan with your family?
Here are just a few smart tips we’ve collected from great resources that can help you think through and solidify a family crisis communication plan.
Build an online presence. If you’ve shied away from social media or even texting on your mobile phone, growing reliance on the Internet for global communications in a disaster is a great reason to have at least a ‘presence’ before you need it.
Use Google Person Finder. This webpage will help you to reconnect with friends and loved ones in the aftermath of natural and humanitarian disasters. Search for “Google Person Finder” or go to http://www.google.org/personfinder. Help your kids bookmark the site on their phones or save the webpage to their mobile homepage.
Update your status’. No, it’s not frivolous to jump on Facebook, it’s powerful! During a disaster alert your loved ones about your location or needs with consistent Facebook or Twitter status updates.
Use social media via mobile. During a natural disaster, a laptop or PC may not be accessible. By having basic apps on your phone such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you can stay connected with loved ones anywhere.
Save mobile power. Go into settings and turn off push and location notifications, close all apps, lower screen brightness, and turn off Bluetooth and 3G. Read written updates rather than watch TV or videos on your phone to save power.
Emergency apps: The Red Cross has two free apps: The Red Cross “shelter finder” app and the SOS Emergency app that puts first aid and CPR information at your fingertips. Both can be accessed at www.redcross.org/techready. FEMA’s Smartphone app lets you apply for disaster assistance, map disaster recovery centers and help you stay connected.
Register with the Red Cross. If you are involved in a disaster, go to The American Red Cross website on your mobile phone (www.redcross.org/safeandwell) and register on Safe and Well.
Get FEMA updates via text. Use your cell phone’s text messaging capability to receive text message updates from FEMA during a local or national disaster. Here’s how to sign up.
Store extra power for tech. Store extra batteries or chargers (hand-crank or solar) with your emergency preparedness kits or in an automobile, so your devices can remain powered.
Use ICE method. Program “In Case of Emergency” (ICE) contacts into your cell phone so emergency personnel can contact those people for you if you are unable to use your phone. Teach your kids to do the same.
Make a family contact sheet. This should include at least one out-of-town contact that may be better able to reach family members in an emergency. Save the contact in an accessible place and on your phone.
Use text, not voice. For non-emergency communications, use text messaging, e-mail, or social media instead of making voice calls on your cell phone to avoid tying up voice networks.
Preserve documents. Upload password protected copies of key documents to a backup or cloud drive that is secured in a remote location.
Download readiness kit. This is a great resource from FEMA and The American Red Cross designed to help you prepare for any kind of disaster. Download Be Red Cross Ready and go over it with your family today.
(Sources: FEMA, Facebook, The American Red Cross)