Tips for Communicating

Tips for Communicating During a Natural Disaster

The North Carolina State Emergency Response Team (SERT) First Responder Communications Team would like to offer the following tips for citizens before, during and after a natural disaster.  These tips are intended to prepare North Carolinians for potential a hurricane, ice storm, or any other disaster that could impact communications and power infrastructure.

Preparing for an emergency: 

  1. Do NOT Call 911 to ask questions about the impending situation. Reach out to readily available sources for information such as www.readync.org or your local news outlets. 911 must be used for emergencies only. 
  2. Understand what type of landline telephone service you have. Do you receive your home telephone service through traditional copper lines or do you subscribe to internet-based service that provides you telephone connections? If you aren’t sure, ask your service provider.
    • Traditional Telephone Service may work during power outages, though you may need to use a “corded” phone.  Many cordless phones rely on electric power to operate.
    • Broadband-enabled telephone service will NOT work during power outages without a battery backup power source to your internet modem. If you do have a battery backup you should make sure it is charged when preparing for the disaster. It is also important, during nice days, to understand how long your battery backup lasts, how to change the battery and how to recharge a backup battery, if you have one.
      • If your power goes out, and you don’t need to use your phone right away, you can disconnect the battery to prevent it from draining. Once power is restored, remember to plug the battery back in to re-charge. 
  3. Charge your wireless devices, laptops and/or tablets when the storm is coming. Keep extra batteries, solar chargers and vehicle chargers close by so they are accessible. 
    • Consider using your laptop as a phone charger, if not needed. If the power goes out, you may be able to charger your device using the laptop using a USB cable. Keep in mind it will drain the laptop battery. 
  4. Consider a battery-powered radio to check news broadcasts for emergency information during extended power outages. There are hand-crank and solar powered options that don’t require batteries. Purchase spare batteries if needed.
  5. Sign up to receive alerts and warnings to your phone or mobile device from your local emergency management agency, school and/or workplace. Ensure that your phone settings are selected to receive wireless emergency alerts from state or local officials.
  6. Store at least one (1) emergency contact under the name “In Case of Emergency” in all of your mobile devices.  This will help responders/rescuers identify your emergency contact if needed. Make sure you let your emergency contact know that they are your “In Case of Emergency” contact. Make sure they have any important medical or other requirements you may need.
  7. Write down important contact information for medical providers, service providers, emergency contacts, insurance companies, veterinarian services and any other contact you may feel is important to have in case your mobile device is not usable. 

During an emergency:   

  1. Call 911 for emergencies only. It is important that 911 lines remain open for life threatening emergencies. Calling 911 for general information about power restoration and weather-related hurricane questions are not appropriate during the emergency. Please follow the direction of your emergency management professionals regarding reporting damage and re-entry into damaged areas after the emergency has passed.
  2. Limit non-emergency phone calls. This will maximize wireless phone network congestion and free up space for emergency communications. If you need to make a phone call, try to keep it brief and only convey vital information to emergency personnel and/or family. Limiting calls also conserves cellular device battery power.
  3. Wait 10 seconds before redialing a call. Redialing a wireless call multiple times in quick succession can increase network congestion, further limiting the ability of all users to place calls.  If you must make a call, please space out your attempts.
  4. For non-emergencies, try text messaging from your wireless device. Text messages to other wireless devices may go through when your phone call may not. There may be a delay, however, due to network congestion.
    • For emergencies, try texting to 911 if phone lines are congested.
  5. Adjust your wireless device settings to conserve battery power.  Check for manual ways to conserve your devices battery power. This includes dimming the brightness of your display and disabling certain applications. Consider turning off the WiFi capability in the event cellular networks become damaged and are inoperable. The device may continue to try and search for the damaged wireless network and drain your battery while this is happening. The same is true for cellular service. If you see your phone consistently searching for signal and the number of signal bars is very low or gone, consider turning off your device or disabling the cellular features. 

Important Safety Reminder – If you do not have electricity in your home be very careful when using your vehicle to charge wireless devices or listen to the radio. Do not try and reach your vehicle outside if it is not safe to do so. Remain vigilant about carbon monoxide emissions for your vehicle, especially if it is in an enclosed space.