Emergency? There’s an App for That

Any situation can become a crisis situation in a blink of an eye.

Flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, forest fires all have devastating effects every year, displacing thousands of people, causing enormous damage, injuries and loss of life.

Recently, the world was captivated by a story of a group of twelve boys and their soccer coach who were trapped underground, in a cave, for two weeks in Thailand. The team entered the caves to seek refuge from sudden torrential rain, which then flooded their cave trapping them inside. Locating the boys and their coach was the first priority – a task that was severely hampered by the fact that rescuers were unable to communicate with each other deep within the underground cave labyrinth. Cell phone signal does not work underground and even traditional two-way communication radios failed.

Fortunately an Israeli company, Maxtech NetWorks, built communication technology that operates under those exact circumstances. The system created a mini relay network within the caves where each device sent data and video to the next device and that device in turn sent the info to the next device, until a full communication network was established. Once the team was located, the rescue efforts could begin.

We all carry powerful tech with us at all times – our cell phone.

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is a truism that is especially relevant in an emergency situation. Therefore, spending a few minutes preparing our phones today could literally be the difference between surviving a disaster or not.

Before a Disaster:
Android and iPhone Built-In Emergency:
Both Android and iPhones have the options to enter emergency contact info into the phone, which is accessible even from the lock screen. Therefore, in an emergency, first responders are able to view vital information that could save your life.

On Android and IOS, under “Settings”, look for Emergency Info or Emergency Contacts and add your emergency contact info and any medical info such as allergies and blood type.

There are also additional features on both Android and IOS devices that will allow you to automatically dial the emergency services by repeatedly pressing the power button in rapid succession. These are different on various versions of the phone so familiarize yourself with the options on your phone.

ICE Contact:
ICE stands for In Case of Emergency. In your phone’s contact, find the person or people who should be contacted in case of emergency and just add the word ICE to their name. eg. Mom – ICE or John Smith – ICE. If you are not able to speak, the first responders could look up your ICE contact on your phone and call your designated person on your behalf.

SOS App:
There are various SOS Apps, which is a type of app, that you can trigger an alarm calling for help. This could be used for medical emergencies, crime related emergencies or other circumstances when you need help from the emergency services. These apps typically would capture your GPS location and share that info with the authorities.

Local News/ Weather:
Each region has their own local news and weather TV stations, which typically have their own app. Install this app and enable emergency weather notifications. In the event that your specific area has an impending weather-related situation, your phone will notify you.

Family Locator:
There are several apps that allow family members to share their locations. This can be enabled or disabled so their privacy can still be maintained, however in an emergency, being able to locate family is critical and this can lead emergency responders directly to anyone who needs help.

During a Disaster:
In Texas, Hurricane Harvey left thousands of people stranded with no power and fighting a rising tide of water which required them to be rescued by boats and helicopters. In this case, your phone is your lifeline. Should you be in a disaster situation, establishing communication is critical which means preserving the phone’s battery power – especially when there is no power to re-charge.

The following tips should be observed:

  1. Dim your screen as much as possible.
  2. Set your screen to time-out quickly so that you don’t inadvertently leave it on.
  3. Use SMS instead of calling. Give instructions in your SMS to ask a friend/ family to make calls on your behalf.
  4. Switch on the phone’s Power Saving Mode or Low-Power Mode. Some operating systems even have the Ultra Power Saving Mode which is even better.
  5. Don’t set your phone to vibrate as that uses more battery-power than a ring.
  6. If your phone has haptic feedback (ie it buzzes when you type), switch that off.
  7. Switch off any automatic app updates and any app notifications
  8. Send an SMS at the top of every hour to let the family know your status, location AND any intentions such as attempting to move. This prevents your phone from ringing constantly for updates from worried loved ones.
  9. Switch off Bluetooth, Wifi and GPS (but only after you let people know exactly where you are).
  10. Only use essential apps to get updates. Limit use of video and rely on text.
  11. Disable any voice assistant such as Siri
  12. Set the phone’s volume to as low as possible (but not vibrate)
  13. Disable any visual effect/ moving backgrounds.
  14. If your phone has multiple email accounts – disable all except one. Now is not the time to check all your mail.
  15. Switch off any “cloud” services such as iCloud backup or Google Drive backups.
  16. If you are with your family and each one has their phones, switch off those phones and only use one. When that phone’s battery is depleted, only then switch on the next phone.
  17. Try find a plastic bag and/or plastic containers to keep the phones dry. DO NOT keep all the phones in the same container just in case that container is not sealed and all the phone are damaged at once.

While we all hope never to be in a situation that requires such drastic measures, the reality is that we simply don’t know when or if this will happen. It’s better to have these apps and not need them, then need these apps and not have them!

Liron Segev is a Social Media Strategist, Author, and Technology Blogger at TheTechieGuy.com

Twitter: @Liron_Segev

Email: Liron@TheTechieGuy.com