How to stay connected during Hurricane Florence and other disasters | Public Relation

Modern communication technology is vulnerable in a hurricane.

Power lines can be downed, and data centers could be flooded. Your cell
phone could run out of juice, as some are predicting that large swaths
could
spend weeks without power. In Puerto Rico, hurricane victims were
without power for months.

So, how can communicators who rely on technology to reach their audiences
active in the days after a hurricane or other natural disaster?

The first step is to prep your phone.

CNN wrote:

Smartphones run through batteries fast. Without some restraint and backup
plans, it could drain even faster during a storm when you’re constantly
checking for updates.

Fully charge your main phone and any extra phones you have lying around in
drawers. You could use them to call 911 or swap in your SIM card to do
more. For backup power, charge any power packs you have, as well as
laptops. In a pinch, you can charge a phone off a laptop. Make sure you
also have your cords ready, including one that can plug into a car —
another power source.

Many newer smartphones have some level of waterproofing, but if you’re
headed out into bad weather or someplace at risk of flooding, pop it in a
Ziploc bag or two.

To stretch out the battery life, turn on low power mode, dim the
brightness, and turn off any unnecessary notifications. You can see which
apps use the most power in Settings. Close them and avoid reopening unless
necessary.

[FREE GUIDE: 3 helpful tips for your crisis comms prep]

Certain apps could prove especially useful during the storm. Some
innovative solutions might work even if your local cellphone tower is
knocked out.

CNN continued:

After Harvey, locals and unofficial rescue crews used some lesser
known tools to locate people in need. Consider installing Zello a walkie-talkie app
that lets you share audio messages and photos. You can create new channels
or join existing ones — there are several already about Hurricane Florence
— to communicate with others in the area and ask for help. But the free
app requires a Wi-Fi or network connection (even older networks like 2G
will work).

Meanwhile, FireChat
is another messaging app that works without data or a signal, and instead
relies on mesh networks. (But Bluetooth and W-Fi need to be turned on even
if access isn’t available, according to the company).

Glympse
is a real-time location sharing app that complements Zello and FireChat.
After using the apps’ messaging capabilities, Glympse users can share their
exact whereabouts with rescue groups.

Airbnb’s
Open Homes program
helps those in need of shelter with people who want to list rooms or homes
for free.

Finally, install a few of the
Red Cross apps, which can offer first aid relief to both humans and pets.

The data suggest that users are downloading Zello, the walkie-talkie app,
in record numbers.


The Washington Post
reported:

Bill Moore, the Austin-based start-up’s chief executive, said his team has
seen a spike in downloads over the past three days.

“We’ve been measuring the number of new users per minute and it was about
100 two days ago and then got up to about 600 yesterday,” Moore said.

“We also saw a spike two weeks ago when the weather in Hawaii was
problematic,” he added. “We’ve become known as the go-to app for
emergencies.”

The app rose to prominence in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, when the
all-volunteer “Cajun Navy” used the app to coordinate a chaotic rescue
operation in place of overwhelmed public officials. During Harvey, the app
allowed victims and rescuers to post voice messages to specific channels,
such as
the Cajun Navy
and “Harvey Animal Rescue.”

You can find explainer articles on how to use the app (such as
this one) online.

Fighting misinformation

Though these apps might help users, some people have been spreading
misinformation. On Twitter, users are encouraging those in the hurricane’s
path to download Zello.

The problem is that many are erroneously promising the app will function
without a data connection, or Wi-Fi. (The app needs at least 2G to work.)

Others on Twitter warn about an array of falsehoods being circulated:

Zello is embracing its role as a hurricane response tool with its tweets:

How are you preparing for Hurricane Florence, PR Daily readers?

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