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Tips for using your mobile device during a weather or other emergency

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Emergency situations are beyond our control, whether due to accidents or inclement weather as severe as Hurricane Irma, which now plagues the east coast of the United States. The truth is that, at times like this, it is normal to panic so we have decided to offer you a series of tips on how to use the mobile phone in these cases.

The mobile phone is, to this day, one of the first things we put in our pocket when we leave the house. Sometimes even before placing the keys there that will allow us to re-access to our home, hence the management of their autonomy is important, as well as other uses that we can give in certain circumstances to, thus, to be as successful as we can meet us along the way. Let’s start.

Make the calls fair and necessary, and no more

Some misfortune occurs and we pick up the phone to call the authorities or simply our loved ones. It is something innate that we do not control but we have to know that this is not the most recommendable in situations like this. Especially because the infrastructures are not prepared to withstand certain peaks of traffic like those that occur during emergencies.

Mobile networks are dimension-ed for a certain volume of traffic, whether calls or data connections, hence in emergency situations tend to saturate. It is advisable, therefore, to make the smallest possible calls. At most, call, transmit the desired message and hang up, and if we can avoid it, not even that.

Mobile network infrastructures often do not withstand traffic peaks during emergencies, give them a break as long as we can.

In these situations what is usually recommended is to release the wave traffic because a general blockade can cause even more incidents. We must communicate through social networks or messaging applications, preferably through fixed connections such as ADSL, fiber or equivalents. In case this is not possible, it would be usual to resort to text messages. The SMS of a lifetime.

These messages also use the connections of mobile operators but do not overload the system as much. First, they use finite and easily manageable data blocks, second because they are asynchronous connections; do not require that both ends are connected to the network at the same time and are delivered when they can be delivered. This way we help to decongest the network.

The myth of the calls without network and the mobile walkie-talkie

One of the information that the Internet usually goes about about emergency calls is that we can do them with the blocked mobile, which is true, and we can do them even when we do not have coverage, which is not strictly true. The explanation is quite simple.

Calls to emergency numbers, such as 911 in USA or the corresponding one in each region, must connect your phone to that service, whether or not you have coverage from your own operator. That means that if you do not have a signal on your SIM, maybe there is another operator with whom you do not have a line. This operator must necessarily connect to the network in order to make that call. That means you have no coverage but you can still call; to emergencies.

To make calls it is necessary that there is line, your operator or any other. If there is no line, your phone becomes an expensive self-defense object.

The problem is when coverage does not exist in general. Not because your operator does not have a line in the area but because there is really no line in your zone. Whether you are in some remote forest of the geography of your country, or in a very high area, or because the inclement weather has caused damage to the facilities of the area, you may find that there is no coverage in the area. Simply because there is not. In this case there will be no way to connect with anyone through your phone, under any circumstances.

It often happens that in circumstances like accidents, storms and others, appear false information about applications that allow us to communicate with others despite not having coverage. Do not believe them, mobiles are not walkie talkies and to connect with others or with the Internet they need mobile networks. If these do not exist, forget the miracles because they will not happen. As we said before, send an SMS that can leave when you find a connection. It will stay on your phone until you get it.

Carry an external battery on top

You can ask any user who lives in remote areas of the big cities to corroborate it: few things consume more battery than a mobile trying to establish a stable connection with the network in areas where it is deficient. If this happens in areas with little coverage, it is also replicated in emergency situations. The lines become saturated, our mobiles lose the connection and try desperately to get it back.

Whenever possible, take an external battery with you. You may need that extra energy.

During the time that the line operates irregularly our phone can suffer a significant bleeding of the battery, hence the recommendation is to carry an external battery in order to be able to return part of the charge when necessary. Especially since it may take a while to find a plug to connect to.

So if you have the opportunity to prevent, because you go out to an emergency instead of hitting her on the street without warning, throw a battery outside the backpack, purse or pocket. This extra power kick can get you out of a hurry at the moment.

Phones often have a compass

It is internal, digital and may not be enabled by the phone software itself, but usually it is there, waiting for instructions. Instructions like “act and tell me where to go” and that is achieved thanks to simple applications that can be found in the mobile app stores.

As we say, maybe the phone we have in our hands already has a compass application installed, somewhere in the device, but if we have the option to download a compass application as we may need it to receive directions on where to go. They are applications that tend to weigh little because they fulfill a single function, to indicate the north.

It is good to know that our phone has sensors that can get us out of more of a predicament, such as the digital compass or GPS

And they also have GPS

Another sensor that is present in the vast majority of mobile phones on the market is GPS. As it is a sensor that connects with the network of satellite positioning, it matters little that we are in the center of a gigantic time, the GPS will continue to work and offering us at all times the position we are in.

At the moment we can use map applications to guide us but it could be the case that we simply need our exact position for someone to come and help us. There the GPS comes in and we can use it in case of emergency. Maybe Google Maps and company can not operate because of the lack of networks but can always give us the position of where we are. That is independent of the connection with the operators.

So if we need it, we can open Apple Maps, Google Maps or the service that we have installed on the phone and note the exact location of the place we are. The margin of error is scarce, a few meters, so that direction could save our lives. Remember that it exists and that the map applications give it completely free, although they use data to place us on the map, and also to speed up the location, so the sooner we close them, the better for the connection and the battery.

And finally, limit the use of the mobile phone and protect it

An iPhone 6 Plus under the snow

It is our way of communicating with the outside so we should limit its use to the maximum. No one would think of watching a movie during an earthquake or a hurricane but compulsively consulting social networks and messaging to know what is happening can always happen. Let us avoid this as much as possible.

Save as much battery as possible and keep the phone in good condition avoiding knocks, dips or extreme temperatures

It has to do with the saturation of the networks mentioned above, and also with the safeguard of the battery that we may need later. It is good to carry the mobile on and on. Let’s keep it on as long as possible. But not only that, we must ensure that the phone preserves integrity, avoid subjecting it to the inclemency for which it is not usually prepared.

We avoid as much as possible to submerge it in the water, although it is certified to support it, or to approach it to extreme temperatures; the mobiles do not react well or in the extreme heat. If we are going to carry it in the pocket instead of in a bag or a backpack, let’s take the screen against the thigh and not towards the outside. All this will help make the phone functional longer.

Some tips to save battery

We close this little guide of use of the mobile phone in emergencies with a few tips, quite simple, to save battery in the device. Battery that can be useful later.

  • Lower the brightness of the screen as much as possible and avoid automatic adjustment of brightness
  • Disconnect those connections that we are not using, such as WiFi, Bluetooth or NFC
  • If you can, use only 3G networks instead of 4G networks. Usually it can be configured from the network preferences of the device, be it iOS, Windows or Android

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