What the Tech? How Tech Tools Can Help in Emergencies
By JAMIE TUCKER Consumer Technology Reporter
Watching the tragedies being played out throughout the state of Florida may have people across the country wondering what they’d do if they suddenly lost power and cell towers for an extended period of time.
You may have an emergency kit put away somewhere for when you need it, but did you include any technology gadgets? Do you have any emergency apps on your phone? It’s worth considering.
Losing power for even a few hours can cause problems. Losing the ability to connect to the internet and with family can make any bad situation worse. When cell towers go down it can take away your last link to the internet.
If you lose power, an electric power station can help keep your appliances and mobile devices working. The EcoFlow DELTAPro charges quickly through a standard electrical outlet. Since it is not a generator that runs on gasoline you can keep it charged and stored in a closet for months.
These electric generators/power stations keep appliances running for hours and are light enough to carry from one room to another. They’ll also keep phones and laptops charged for days.
When my power went out for 2 days due to a storm, the power station kept a refrigerator running for 13 hours. When the battery finally ran down, I took it to a neighbor’s home who had electricity. It recharged to 100% in less than 2 hours.
In extended power outages, a solar panel screen will keep those power stations running. These are lightweight and can stow away in a small space until you need them.
If you don’t have a portable power station, you should at least have a couple of charged and ready-to-go portable batteries for phones.
Put a few power cords in your emergency kit and keep them there. Consider a multi-plug cable with USB, USB-C, and Lightning plugs for iPhones. These are relatively inexpensive and you won’t need multiple charging cables for the variety of devices you may use.
The Zello app is great for emergencies even when cell towers are down. Once the wireless companies get temporary portable towers up and running, the Zello app requires just a fraction of the signal to send texts and audio messages so you’ll have more success with messages than you will with phone calls.
The Zello app is like having a walkie-talkie that’ll reach anywhere. Emergency and volunteer agencies use the Zello app to locate and send help to people who need it. There are also animal rescue groups using the app that will respond to calls for help.
There are several Zello communities specifically helping Florida residents.
The app What3Words sends your location in the form of three words. The makers of this app created a worldwide grid using GPS coordinates. Rather than sending a series of digits, you send just three words to mark your location. Even if you don’t know where you are, the app finds your exact location and marks it with three words you can send in a text or say it.
Even if they don’t have the app, they can click on a link or search for the three words online to find you. It doesn’t need much of a signal to work.
Weather radios are a must-have. Eton makes portable weather radios that do not require batteries. Eton radios have flashlights, AM/FM and Weather band radio can charge a phone and has a small solar panel to help it stay charged. Even if the battery goes dead, it’ll charge with a solar panel or a hand-crank.
I have a very old Eton emergency radio that was tossed in a storage room for several years. I found it, turned the crank for about 15 seconds and had access to the National Weather Service and local AM/FM stations. They are about $50.
You won’t need them until you need them but if you do, you’ll be glad you put these tech gadgets somewhere you can find them in an emergency.