Disaster preparedness is a growing concern for both individuals and institutions around the country today, and in many ways new technology is improving how we prepare and respond to these events. There are algorithms to predict earthquakes, speech-to-text analytics programs that can improve decision-making and emergency services dispatching, and IoT that measures water speeds to evaluate flooding risks. Most of the technology changing emergency preparedness and response, however, is much simpler – specifically tools that individuals can keep on hand to navigate the hours and days after disaster strikes.
Smartphones are one of the major tools that people use during disasters, whether they’re calling loved ones to make sure they’re safe or trying to find a safe route out of town. Unfortunately, if you don’t have the right tools on your phone before disaster strikes, you’ll be limited in what you can do to respond. Long before things take a turn for the worst, then, take a moment to download disaster preparedness apps such as the FEMA mobile app, the American Red Cross app, and the Ready-for-Wildfire app. These tools include checklists, information about shelters, weather alerts, and other key information that can help you survive extreme weather events.
Let Light Reign
Traditionally, when preparing an emergency supply kit, people are told to make sure they flashlights with extra batteries and candles on hand, but if you’re stuck in a long blackout, neither of these is a great solution. Consider supplementing your emergency lighting with battery operated candles. Unlike regular candles, there’s no fire risk with battery operated ones, and compared to flashlights, it’s much easier to light a larger space with these candles. When you want to play a game or make a meal in a blackout, being able to see beyond a single flashlight beam can be a real advantage.
Get Support From Smart Homes
Depending on the course of events, your smart home may shut down during an emergency; no electricity and no internet means no home connectivity. However, if your home is still “online,” make the most of its upgrades. For example, smart window glass can be set to maintain indoor temperatures, so you can adjust it to minimize thermal loss or gain as appropriate. The wired alarms in other smart windows can also let you know if wind or a falling branch breaks a window on the other side of your home so you can respond immediately.
Create A Cord Cache
If you’re going to take advantage of your technology during an emergency, you’ll need access to the right chargers, especially if you need to evacuate. Charge your devices, as well as any backup batteries or portable power banks so that you’re starting with maximum power. You’ll also want to make sure you have a power strip so that multiple people can safely charge devices at once, and that you have a car charger with multiple ports so that you can take advantage of your car’s battery if the power in your home goes out.
Digitize Your Health ID
Many people with serious health issues wear medical IDs with key information on them, but typically these IDs can only hold a few lines. That’s why everyone, but especially those with major health issues, should download a digital medical ID that can be stored on your phone. These can hold extensive files such as diagnoses, allergies, medications, and emergency contacts, as well as past test results and treatment protocols. This can be lifesaving if hospital computers are down or typical doctors can’t be reached.
Disaster preparedness is a multi-pronged process and while we can’t rely too heavily on technology because it can fail, especially if the power grid goes down, technology offers clear advantages when trying to navigate uncertain circumstances. Indeed, it can help minimize harm by aiding in evacuation and communication. As with all other types of disaster preparedness, though, the key is to ensure that you have all the tools in place long before you need them. Preparedness can’t start in the hours before disaster, but must be an ongoing process.