September is National Preparedness Month. Do you know which Yolo County evacuation zone you live in? Are you set up to receive emergency notifications and alerts? What would you take with you if you had to leave your home on short notice?
And what do these questions have to do with our smartphones? Read on.
Recently, with the threat of road closures and evacuations in Yolo County, we signed up to receive alerts on our smartphones. First, we confirmed which zone we live in – something everyone should be aware of — then we signed up to receive alerts from the Yolo County website (www.yolocounty.org).*
When you locate your zone and sign up for notifications on the Yolo County website you can choose which types of information you wish to receive as well as which cities in Yolo county you’d like to receive notifications about.
We recommend that you also visit the excellent Ready.gov website, www.ready.gov. The website is a treasure trove of helpful information about how to be prepared for both natural and man-made disasters and emergencies, and how to make and practice a preparedness plan for a variety of situations.
We studied the Ready.gov website for information pertaining to the role of personal technology – specifically our smartphones – in preparing for emergencies. Here are just a few of the recommendations in the “Get Tech Ready” section of the website:
- When a potentially dangerous situation is close at hand, keep your phone fully charged at all times.
- Keep a phone charger, power strip and if possible a back-up power supply in your car.
- Know how to change the settings on your phone to low power mode to conserve energy.
- Almost all smartphones have a built-in flashlight and a magnifier feature. If you haven’t already, become familiar with these features.
- Download the free FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) app to your phone and set it to receive notifications and text alerts, including local fire and smoke alerts.
- The Red Cross Emergency! app has an “I’m Safe” button you can use to post information to your social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) accounts letting others know your status. Even if you don’t use social media, this app has useful information about all types of disaster preparedness, with various preparedness quizzes you can take and learn from.
- Both the FEMA and Red Cross Emergency! apps can be downloaded for free from the App store (iPhone) or the Google Play store (Samsung).
Important documents to have (or have access to) on your phone
- Use your phone’s camera to scan or photograph important documents such as insurance policies, medical and other official records. When possible obtain electronic versions of these documents to keep on your phone and in a cloud storage service.
- Have digital copies of all your important photos and keep them backed up.
- Keep your contacts updated on your phone and synced across all of your devices (phone, tablet, computer).
- We also suggest keeping important passwords in your phone so that you can access your online accounts if you away from home. There are several ways to do this depending on your phone and your personal preferences. Of course, if you do keep passwords or any sensitive information on your phone be sure that the phone itself has security (passcode, touch ID or facial recognition) enabled.
- The Ready.gov website recommends signing up for Direct Deposit (e.g. your paycheck, Social Security check or other funds you receive regularly) and setting up electronic banking.
- We know many of our fellow seniors are not comfortable with banking online, however we recommend you consider establishing online access to your bank and download the bank’s app. Even if you choose not to do routine banking transactions online, you will be able to get to your account no matter where you are.
Finally, we recommend that once you have made your emergency plan (including a list of the items you need to have on hand), put a copy of that plan in your phone – in your Notes app, Reminders app, or any text document – and keep a copy in the cloud. This way, if you are ever faced with the need to act quickly and you feel a bit of panic, you need only remember one thing: go to your phone, tap on your safety plan, and follow it step-by-step.
We hope you’ll visit the Yolo County Government and Ready.gov websites and take advantage of what they have to offer. If you need assistance with getting “tech ready,” ask a friend, family member, or trusted tech professional to help.
Stay safe and well.
* For convenience we’ve provided direct links to all the websites we’ve mentioned in this article here: Click here for the links