Hurricane Sandy is currently barreling its way up the east coast and is expected to make landfall on Monday night. I remember where I was for Hurricane Irene last year. I was up in Newport, Rhode Island attending a friend’s wedding when the power went out in our hotel. Being the geek I am, most of my gadgets had been already plugged in to the outlets. Thankfully, I was one of the only people who had a full charge later into the night.
Keep Your Gadgets Charged
That experience was far from traumatic, but it’s always good to know that you have plenty of options for using your mobile phone or tablet in case of emergency. Here’s an example: because we were in a hotel none of us had brought flashlights. Sure, the hallways had dim emergency lighting, but the actual flash mechanism on our phones worked perfectly as a flashlight. If our phones hadn’t been charged we would have been left, literally, in the dark.
This tip might seem obvious, but your gadgets are your contact to the outside world. The phone lines, and my wireless carrier’s data network, were still up during the hurricane, even though the hotel’s Wi-Fi was knocked offline.
There are a few ways to make sure your smartphone or tablet lasts as long as possible: Turn down your screen brightness, use Wi-Fi when available, turn off 4G if you can, and use the device as sparingly as possible. Also consider turning off push services, such as email, so that your phone isn’t constantly pinging servers.
Pro tip: I usually carry a spare, charged up battery for my phones. Several companies offer great products that can keep your gadgets topped off. Zagg, for example, offers its ZaggSparq products with up to 6,000mAh of additional battery life.
Forward Landline Calls to you Cell
A big storm can easily knock down a local telephone pole in your neighborhood, which means you should make sure to forward your landline calls to you cell phone. That way anyone who might be trying to call your house – possibly local authorities who might not have your cell phone number – can call your phone.
In most areas of the United States you can forward calls from your landline by dialing *72. Dialing *73 should deactivate it once the storm has passed.
Carry a Mobile Hotspot
If you’re like me and need to work from the road a lot, then a mobile hotspot is a no brainer. It easily shares your 3G or 4G internet connection with multiple Wi-Fi enabled devices. These days I typically just use the hotspot feature on my smartphone, but if power is out then you’ll want to rely on a separate device. Using a mobile hotspot on your smartphone is one of the fastest ways to drain the battery, so be careful.
Use Wi-Fi Calling or a VoIP Alternative
This tip is great if your power is still up and your wireless carrier is slammed to the point where you can’t place a phone call. T-Mobile offers Wi-Fi calling on a large number of its phones, which means it uses your home Internet (or whatever Wi-Fi network your on) to place the call. If you’re on another carrier, consider using Skype or another VoIP service to place calls over Wi-Fi.
Download Weather & News Apps
Provided you have a wireless data connection of some sort, weather and news apps will be key for staying up on the latest information related to the emergency. In the case of Sandy, these apps will alert you when the hurricane makes landfall, if you’re in a potential flood area and need to evacuate and more. Plus, you’ll be able to keep track of the storm in real time so you can stay out of its path as needed.
Backup Important Data to the Cloud
You should always back up your data, but it’s especially important during a storm. If a power surge kills your system, or if your house floods, you could lose all of the data on your computers. Keep it backed up in the cloud, using services such as Dropbox or Sugarsync, so that you don’t have to worry about any of it being ruined in the house.