Wildfires, tornadoes, floods, intruders: 4 ways your phone can save you in an emergency
Our phones are at the center of our social lives, butin the event of a natural disaster or other emergency. If you find yourself stranded on the side of the road, or facing an intruder making it impossible to dial 911, the Android phone or iPhone in your hand is a potentially life-saving tool.
In 2019, a young man’s life was saved after he started having an asthma attack and dialed 911 from his Android phone. Although he could not communicate with the operator, his location was sent to the call center and help arrived on time. In 2017,just asking Siri to call for help. And fake calls to order pizza can help victims of domestic violence alert police.
These extreme examples highlight the role phones can play in preventing loss of life when things get out of hand. Now thatand are here it is even more important to . Police departments and first responders also realize that our phones are an essential tool in emergency situations.
We spoke to the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado for advice and tips on the many ways a phone can literally be your lifeline.
Forest fires, floods, earthquakes and hurricanes can devastate buildings and essential utilities in just minutes. The damage can last for days and weeks, destroying power grids and cell phone towers.
Whether it’s an unexpected event or something you have had time to prepare for, here are some tips for getting help:
- Send text messages instead of trying to make phone calls: Between the damage to cell phone towers and power lines, and the strain that will be placed on the network as first responders focus on an area, receiving a phone call is going to be hit or miss. Text messages, however, require much less network resources and have a better chance of getting through.
- : From hurricane monitoring to meeting with friends and family, there’s an app to help you with just about any natural disaster.
- SOS applications: The Apple App Store and Google Play Store have a wide range of options that use your phone’s camera flash signal to send an SOS in Morse code, like the free Flashlight & More utility for iPhone and Super-Bright LED Flashlight for Android.
Stranded in the desert
To save as much of your phone’s battery as possible, turn off apps and services that won’t find help, like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. When there is no cell coverage, Airplane Mode will prevent your phone from constantly searching for a signal, saving valuable battery reserves.
GPS works offline to find you
- It is important to note that you can still use the GPS functionality of your phone even when it is in use. airplane mode.
- If you are planning a hike, apps like GAIA GPS let you download offline map of the area you are in, then use your phone’s GPS to locate you. I tested the app on a and and sometimes it took about 30 seconds to locate me, but in the end it worked great without cell coverage.
Find out facts about edible plants
Unless you are familiar with plants, chances are you won’t know what is safe to eat if you are in dire need of nutrition. You have a few options:
- Download the Wikipedia app and save the Poisonous Plants Wiki for offline viewing. This is not the best solution, but the list contains photos and brief descriptions of plants that could be causing damage.
- On Android phones, may help identify unfamiliar plants if you are in an area with wireless reception, but beware of toxic look-alikes – Lens is not a certified botanical tool and should not be used. We especially warn against consuming wild mushrooms or berries.
- However, an app like Lens can be useful for getting general information, such as which part of a common plant is digestible – and internal links lead to more information. Note that Google Lens can drain your battery.
- Download a region specific application, for example, “Hiking and Plants in Colorado”, to provide more specific information about local plants.
By break-in or active shooter
The first thing you need to do after realizing that someone has broken into your house or that there is an active shooter nearby is to hide and mute all sounds on your phone. Dim its lights or switch to dark mode. Android users can quickly turn off their phone in the quick settings panel, and iPhone users can use the mute switch.
Additionally, go to your phone’s settings app and turn off all vibrations, including keyboard and touch vibrations – vibrations can be audible, especially if the phone is resting on a surface.
Rely on text messaging to alert someone outside of what’s going on. Ready.gov has more suggestions to help you prepare for an active shooter situation.
Depending on where you live, texting 911 may be an additional option. The FCC maintains a spreadsheet of cities that support texting-911. The list is updated once a month. I suggest searching the spreadsheet (Cmd + F on Mac or Ctrl + F on PC) to find the city or county you are in or will be visiting, to see if they support texting to-911.
If you try to use SMS-911 and it is not supported in your area, you will receive a message informing you that no one has received your message and you need to make a call. If not sure, text reliable and responsive contacts so they can make a call on your behalf.
When you can’t physically call for help
- IPhone users can say “Hey, Siri, call 911”, while Android users should be able to say “OK, Google, call 911”.
- Make sure you have on your iPhone by going to Settings > Siri > Listen to Hey Siri. If you are using Android, long press the home button to bring up Google Assistant and say: “Configure Voice Match. “
- If you are at home and have a nearby as well as a , which allows your Echo to make phone calls for you, you can use Alexa to call 911.
- A or a newer device allows you which will call for help when it detects a fall and the wearer does not react.
Other ways to prepare: shared location, emergency contacts, batteries
- Consider sharing your location with trusted emergency contacts. For an iPhone, use the . On Android, use this . The third-party Glympse app will do the same.
- Configure emergency contacts and medical information. On the iPhone, use the Health app. On an Android phone, consider adding your own name or medical information as a contact, or download an SOS emergency app. On the Pixel 4, use the .
- If you are lost, emergency services can use nearby cell towers to triangulate your location, so keep a Convenient to charge your phone – store it in your backpack, car or other gear. Your phone will last longer when you