When severe weather and power outages hit, a smartphone can become an invaluable resource. It can act as a weather tracker, source of entertainment, backup work center, news outlet, or even a flashlight.
Are you ready for the next time bad weather rolls in? Find out with our checklist: 6 Ways Your Smartphone Can Help in Severe Weather…
1. What’s The Weather Report?
There are many different weather apps out there for smartphones. From basic forecasters to hi-def radar maps (for all you weather geeks), be sure you pick one that will help you stay on top of storm patterns as they happen. We suggest reading the app descriptions to find the one that best fits your needs.
One tried-and-true weather app we love comes from The Weather Channel. It provides answers to many users’ key concerns. As soon as you notice menacing clouds rolling in, you can check the severe weather alerts on your phone. These alerts state when storms are expected to pass through, which counties will be affected, and what the conditions will look like.
Another great tool is the radar map tab for those times when the power goes out and you’re nervously camped out in the downstairs closet, counting down the minutes until the booming thunder and roaring wind finally lets up.
The Weather Channel app also features a social tab that conveniently collects all weather-related tweets from Twitter users in your surrounding area. This lets you follow others’ experiences in real-time…to gather information about the situation and to keep your neighbors company virtually.
2. Twitter Brews Up a Storm
Speaking of Twitter, it’s really a great platform to use on your smartphone during a storm. After all, there are two topics people on twitter love talking about most: food and weather. You can follow people in the area to find out about road closures, damage, power outages, and closings. Twitter will also allow you to view storm photos and start conversations with others. You can filter your searches by using hashtags. Try your city name (example, #Richmond), #weather, or even the name associated with the storm (#derecho).
Be sure to follow your local utility companies and news stations on Twitter as well. Last weekend in the wake of the storm, Dominion Power (@domvapower) did a great job keeping their customers updated via Twitter about the status of power restoration efforts. They even made an effort to answer individual tweets. Comcast’s cable and Internet were also out after the storm last week, so you can imagine that their customer service phone lines were overloaded. Many customers actually found out about restored service through Twitter first.
If you haven’t yet gotten on the Twitter bandwagon, here’s a helpful primer that covers the basics.
3. Battery (Life) Saver
If your power goes out completely, then you’ll want to conserve your phone battery for emergencies and periodic updates. Download a battery-saving app to help you extend the life of your charge in the meantime. The app will adjust the settings on high-energy zappers, such as screen brightness, network connectivity and screen time out. Another way to save—just turn the phone off until needed.
Does it seem like you can never find a flashlight when the lights go out? Well, there’s an app for that! As long as your phone is nearby, you’ll always have a quick light at your finger tips.
5. Requesting Backup
In the wake of this past week’s storm, you may have heard people talking about the cloud. (And I don’t mean the cumulonimbus variety we saw up in the sky).
I’m talking about apps like Dropbox that automatically save your work and sync your files between your computer, smartphone, and online storage locations. The cloud can be a deadline saver when you do a lot of computer work and you find yourself without power. If you must do work on your smartphone during an outage, Dropbox will allow you to access all your changes on your computer once the power returns.
6. Family Safety Plan
Many of our customers have family members scattered across the country in all different weather zones.
When Louisa County, VA found itself at the epicenter of a major earthquake last summer, phone lines became jammed pretty quickly as people rushed to call their loved ones and check on their safety. When cell towers are jammed with calls, smartphone apps that use the data network (like Facebook) may be an alternative way to let people know you’re ok.
You might also try the Life360 app for keeping tabs. It uses GPS to notify you where your family members are located at any moment, if they’ve checked in to say they’re okay or need help, and what safety points and threats are nearby. It also allows secure group messaging to keep you in touch. People love this app because the first thing everyone wants to do during a weather impact is call their family. This is an alternative when a call isn’t possible.