Post by: Kim Stephens
Cecil County, Maryland proves that you don’t have to have huge budgets or a large staff to provide quality service to your citizens. My last post highlighted Fairfax County and their cell phone preparedness page. James Hamilton (aka @Disaster_guy on twitter) chimed in that he had written something similar for Cecil County’s emergency management website. The content, however, has some added tips for citizens that I think are really important. I even like the introduction:
During a major emergency your cell phone may become a lifeline in many ways. Is your cell phone up to the task? Particularly if you have a smart phone such as an iPhone, Android, or Blackberry, there are many resources available that may be helpful in the case of an emergency. This becomes even more critical if you have lost power and/or internet.
There are five things this tip sheet does right:
1. Points out what kind of phone will work with wireless emergency alerts:
- If you are shopping for a new phone, select one that is capable of receiving CMAS / Wireless Emergency Alerts messages. Your carrier should be able to direct you to these phones.
2. Highlights specific information regarding the county’s notification system and social media presence:
- Ensure that you have registered your cellular number with Cecil County’s emergency notification system. This system is only used in the event of extreme emergencies.
- If you use Facebook or Twitter on your phone, ensure that you are following our Facebook or Twitter accounts. (In an emergency, any phone that can send and receive text messages can receive DES’ Twitter feed by texting “follow @CecilCountyDES” to 40404).
3. Points to and provides hyperlinks to local response partners, including the power company:
- If your home is served by Delmarva Power, download their iPhone/iPad, Android, or Blackberry app to report outages and view outage status.
- Search for an app that will provide you with weather alerts and weather radar. There are many free weather apps for each operating system.
4. Describes cloud computing options and why they are important:
- Consider hosting emergency information such as insurance policies and a home inventory in an online repository such as Google Drive, iCloud, or Dropbox so that it will be accessable to you on your phone or from any computer after an emergency.
5. Describes power issues and how to address them:
- Consider purchasing a solar or hand-cranked charger for your cell phone.
Thanks again to James for directing me to their great tips. If your agency is doing something interesting please let me know!
In our experience, good old fashioned email was more valuable in the recent power outages in Northern Virginia than internet apps. Our cell phones had very spotty internet and phone service but we were able to regularly receive Arlington County’s OEM emails on our cell phones. Texting continued to work as well.
Thanks for the comment Claire. Yes, I think this latest event proved that duplication and redundancy are vital to communications. That seems to be a lesson we learn with every event!
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