Post by: Kim Stephens
I like to scan emergency management websites looking for best practice examples to share. Due to the recent #derecho storm on the easter corridor I checked into Fairfax County–always a great example–to see what they were up to and I stumbled onto their Digital Preparedness Kit. Although this recent storm was humbling regarding the use of cell phones in a crisis, now that power is being restored, cell service is actually one of the first things coming back online.
Verizon announced Tuesday afternoon that nearly all of its customers had cellphone service restored, but there were lingering problems with TV, landline and Internet service in Virginia, Maryland and The District. Mitchell [of Verizon] said there was no timetable for when those problems might be resolved. (Washington Post Local)
Recommending how citizens can have their cell phones “emergency ready” therefore, is still a great idea. Fairfax has ten great tips that should be a staple on all emergency preparedness websites. Recommendation #7, which describes the importance of conserving cell power in case the user needs to dial 911, is a bit ironic considering 911 was out of service for an unacceptable amount of time in the county during the storm. That recommendation should also come with a side note for government agencies: “avoid sending tweets with links to information that needs to be downloaded by citizens, therefore increasing network congestion.” Nonetheless, this page is a great resource which also provide information and links to all of their mobile apps.
Do you have a “cell preparedness” page on your local agency website? Let me know. Here are their tips:
Top 10 Digital Preparedness Tips
- Tell your friends & family you are OK via text, email, Twitter, Facebook and other social media.
- Learn how to send updates via text and internet from your mobile phone to your contacts and social channels in case voice communications are not available. Avoid calling by phone.
- If you have a life-threatening emergency, call 9-1-1. Remember that you cannot currently text 9-1-1. If you are not experiencing an emergency, do not call 9-1-1.
- Save important phone numbers to your phone.
- Keep charged batteries and car-phone chargers available as back-up power for your cell phone.
- Conserve your cell phone battery by reducing the brightness of your screen, placing your phone in airplane mode, and closing apps you are not using that draw power.
- Immediately following a disaster, resist using your mobile device to watch streaming videos, download music or videos, or play video games, all of which can add to network congestion. Limiting use of these services can help potentially life-saving emergency calls get through to 9-1-1.
- If you do not have a cell phone, keep a prepaid phone card to use if needed during or after a disaster.
- Charge your digital camera or buy batteries for your film camera if you need to document storm damage afterwards.
- Get connected with us through the tools listed on this page: texts, Twitter and more.