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Top 10 tech tips for getting through disasters

June 26, 2017

Photo of a variety of tech devices.
​Photo: Your phone is your lifeline – and will be in a disaster, too. Make your emergency tech plan now so that your communication devices will serve you to your greatest advantage.



When you think about being prepared for severe weather, you probably imagine things like emergency kits with food and medicine or making sure you have clean water available. But in this age of wireless communication, it’s also very important to have an emergency tech plan in place. This includes using your various mobile devices to your advantage. How will you contact friends, family or first responders if the phone lines are jammed or your cell phone is dead?

Fortunately, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Homeland Security and Emergency Management division (HSEM) has already thought through these very issues. They’ve come up with 10 simple tech tips that can help you get through severe weather or a disaster more easily.

  1. Keep your contacts updated across all your channels (phone, email, and social media) so you can update and get information from the right people quickly.
  2. Immediately after a disaster, network congestion is the enemy. Be part of the solution by resisting the urge to stream videos, download music or play games. That will make it easier for first responders using that same network to get to the people who need it most.
  3. Keep extra batteries for your phone and other devices in a safe, accessible place – think your car or home emergency kit.
  4. Invest in a backup power source, such as a solar-powered, hand-crank, or car charger, for when utilities go down and your phone’s battery is running low.
  5. Keep an up-to-date family contact sheet with at least one out-of-town contact who can reach family members in an emergency.
  6. Make sure your phone can receive Wireless Emergency Alerts – this is one way authorities send out important messages in times of disaster and severe weather.
  7. Social media is a great way to let friends and family know whether you’re okay without tying up phone lines.
  8. Gather important documents (such as insurance, driver’s license, and banking information) and secure them in the cloud or on a flash drive kept in a safe place. That way if your devices or the bank’s systems are down, you’ll still have vital information.
  9. Program “in case of emergency” (ICE) contacts into your cell phone so that emergency personnel can contact them for you should you be unable to use your phone.
  10. If you have a traditional landline that isn’t broadband or VOIP, invest in a phone with a corded receiver. It will work even if you lose power.

HSEM has many more tips and ideas to help you prepare for disaster in a digital world. You can check them out on HSEM’s website.​​​