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Tech Tips for East Coasters Dealing with Sandy

Tech Tips for East Coasters Dealing with Sandy
By Barry Levine

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Wireless carriers are asking East Coast customers during Sandy to limit non-emergency voice calls and use text messages instead, which will limit battery use and help ease up network congestion, giving needed bandwidth to emergency communications. Be aware that cell service can still be up, but either overloaded or diminished by heavy rain from Sandy.
 

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For East Coasters, weathering Sandy the Monster Storm involves more than just stocking up on water, food that doesn't need cooking, and flashlights. There are also tech things you can do to keep yourself and your data safe.

There are the basic ones, of course. Charge all your mobile devices -- phones, tablets, laptops. Hopefully, you regularly back up your data, including backup to an off-site location such as the cloud.

To conserve battery power, lower screen brightness on any device. Some devices offer voice-oriented accessibility features that allow you to interact even if the screen is dimmed to the lowest possible level. Airplane mode on any device also minimizes battery use, and you can turn off any unneeded automated or background apps or notifications.

Text, Unless Emergency

Wireless carriers are asking customers to limit non-emergency voice calls and use text messages instead, which will limit battery use and help ease up network congestions, giving needed bandwidth to emergency communications. Be aware that cell service can still be up, but either overloaded or diminished by heavy rain. If you can't complete a cell phone call, the carriers recommend waiting 10 seconds before redialing, in order to help alleviate network congestion.

Carriers are also advising that people keep phones and all accessories, such as batteries or chargers, in sealed bags to prevent water damage. Add emergency numbers to all phones, and, if you're being evacuated, forward calls to your cell phone. Use your phone's camera to record any valuables for possible insurance use later.

Your cell phone can become a Twitter hub so you can post tweets and monitor others', by texting START to 40404. A text message will be returned, to which you can reply "yes" with your user name, minus the @ symbol. After that, you'll be prompted for your password, and you'll be able to post by sending texts.

Emergency Apps

For users who don't have a Twitter account, one can quickly be set up via your phone by texting START to 40404, and responding with your full name when you're prompted. This will establish a mobile account, after which tweets can be sent by texting to 40404. You can also sign up for text alerts from your state emergency management center and local utility companies.

There are a variety of free or inexpensive apps that can make your smartphone or tablet even more useful, which are available in either Apple's App Store, Google's Android Play store, or both.

The Weather Channel's app, for instance, offers customizable weather maps, detailed forecasts and alerts. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has an app that includes disaster preparedness information, such as a checklist for an emergency kit and tips on how to take cover if needed. You can also get the same preparedness info by texting PREPARE to 43362.

The American Red Cross has a hurricane-specific app, which includes information on open shelters and a "I'm safe" alert you can send to Facebook, Twitter and e-mail to notify family and friends.
 

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