keeping your cell phone alive during a natural disaster and/or power outage

Cell phones are a lifeline during natural disasters.  They keep us in touch with family and friends, keep us informed on the disaster and may even make a life saving call.

Natural disasters happen – hurricanes, tornadoes, storms, floods, earthquakes – that can disrupt everything including electricity and communications.

Most people have cell phones and can keep in touch but cell phone batteries last about a day and what happens after that?  The search is on for electricity to recharge your phone.

Fortunately even with a wide spread power outage the cell phone network continues to function for us.  This is because the cell phone companies have planned for this contingency with back up batteries and generators.

Unfortunately most people have not planned for this contingency.  And the battery in your cell phone does not last so long – less than a day with heavy use.  But there are things we can do to conserve our precious battery life and find sources of power.

So here are some ideas to keep your cell phone alive during extended power outages.  Conserve your battery, find sources to charge the battery and plan ahead.

If it looks like the power may be off for a while here are some ways to conserve your cell phone’s battery

  • enable power saving mode
  • turn off the radios that you don’t need like Bluetooth, WiFi and GPS
  • stop applications that you are not using
  • lower screen brightness
  • don’t waste battery on non-essential tasks like games
  • text instead of voice for lower power consumption and if voice communications are jammed
  • record a voice mail greeting saying “I’m OK, I have my phone off now to save its battery” and shut off your phone

Next it is time to find ways to charge your cell phone battery.  You may have some sources around your home that you haven’t thought of like

  • charge your cell phone by plugging it into your laptop
  • charge your phone in your car
  • charge your phone by plugging it into your UPS if you have one

You may have to travel to find someone with power to share.  A neighbor, business or shelter may have power to share.

Plan ahead, have a disaster plan.  If you expect prolonged power outages or you just like to be prepared, there are ways to plan for it, like

  • have additional batteries charged and ready for your cell phone (sorry, iPhone users can’t swap out batteries)
  • get a battery pack designed to fit on the back of your phone to extend the battery life (ie mophie Juice Pack not recommending, just an example)
  • get a rechargeable battery back that can recharge other devices (ie myCharge not recommending, just an example)
  • for more recharging and power capacity, get a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply, basically a battery device designed to keep anything plugged in powered during power outages.)
  • get a generator
  • get a solar power charger
  • get a nuclear power plant for your basement – kidding

Hopefully the disaster will be short and you will all survive unscathed.  And your battery will last.

Take care and keep in touch.

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With hurricane Sandy there was a flurry of news reports on emergency preparedness and using cell phones.  Just type “disaster cell phone preparedness” or relevant search terms  into your favorite search engine.  This is my take on it.

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