Tornadoes, Floods, Wildfires, Intruders: 4 Ways Your Phone Can Help in an Emergency

Our telephones are key to our social lives, however they could also help save lives in a pure catastrophe or different emergency. Should you wind up stranded on the facet of the street, trapped inside your home or confronted with an intruder that makes it not possible to dial 911, the Android cellphone or iPhone in your hand is a doubtlessly life-saving software. 

In 2019, a younger man’s life was saved after he began having an asthma attack and dialed 911 from his Android cellphone. Despite his not having the ability to talk with the operator, his location was despatched to the decision heart and assist arrived in time. In 2017, a 4-year-old saved his mom’s life simply by asking Siri to name for assist. And phony calls to order pizza can assist victims of domestic violence alert the police.

These excessive examples underscore the position that telephones can play in stopping lack of life when conditions spin uncontrolled. Now that wildfire season and hurricane season are right here, it is much more vital to prepare for the unexpected. Police departments and first responders additionally understand our telephones are a significant software throughout emergency conditions.

We talked to the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado for recommendation and ideas in regards to the some ways a cellphone can actually be your lifeline.

Read extra: Emergency Prep: 3 Tips to Recover Important Documents After a Natural Disaster

Natural disasters

Wildfires, floods, earthquakes and hurricanes can devastate buildings and important utilities in just some minutes. The harm can final for days and weeks, taking down electrical grids and cell towers in the method.

Whether it is an surprising occasion or one you’ve got had time to organize for, listed below are some tips about getting assist:

  • Send textual content messages as an alternative of attempting to put cellphone calls: Between harm to cell towers and energy traces, and the pressure that might be placed on the community as first responders deal with an space, getting a cellphone name to undergo goes to be hit and miss. Text messages, nonetheless, require far fewer community assets and have a greater probability of going via.
  • Apps and services for natural disasters: From hurricane monitoring to reuniting you with family and friends members, there’s an app that can assist you with nearly any pure catastrophe.
  • SOS apps: The Apple App Store and Google Play Store have a variety of choices that use your cellphone’s digicam flash sign to ship an SOS in Morse Code, just like the free Flashlight & More Utility for iPhone and (*4*) for Android.
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Storms can take out electrical grids and cell towers in just some seconds.


Ricky Arnold/NASA

Stranded in the wilderness

To preserve your cellphone’s battery as a lot as attainable, disable apps and providers that will not discover you assist, like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. When there is not any mobile protection, airplane mode will maintain your cellphone from always trying to find sign, which saves valuable battery reserves.

GPS works offline to seek out you

  • Importantly, you’ll be able to nonetheless use your cellphone’s GPS performance even when it is in airplane mode.
  • If you are planning a hike, apps like GAIA GPS allow you to obtain an offline map of the realm you will be in, after which use your cellphone’s GPS to find your self. I’ve examined the app on an iPhone XS Max and Pixel 3 XL and at occasions it took 30 seconds or so to find me, however in the end it labored simply superb with out mobile protection. 
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In the wilderness, take loads of precautions.


Picture Alliance

Find out information about edible vegetation

Unless lots about vegetation, odds are you are not going to know what’s suitable for eating should you’re in dire want of diet. You have just a few choices:

  • Download the Wikipedia app and save the poisonous plants Wiki for offline viewing. It’s not the very best answer, however the checklist has pictures and transient descriptions of vegetation that would trigger hurt.
  • On Android telephones, Google Lens can assist establish unknown vegetation should you’re in an space with wi-fi reception, however be careful for toxic lookalikes — Lens just isn’t a licensed botany software and shouldn’t be relied upon. We particularly warning in opposition to consuming wild mushrooms or berries. 
  • However, an app like Lens might be useful for common info, akin to which a part of a typical plant is digestible — and inside hyperlinks result in extra info. Note that Google Lens can drain your battery.
  • Download a regionally particular app, e.g. “Colorado climbing and vegetation,” to supply extra particular details about native vegetation.
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Texting to 911 is an choice to maintain in thoughts.


Jason Cipriani/CNET

Break-in or energetic shooter

The very first thing that you must do after you understand somebody has damaged into your home or there’s an energetic shooter close by is to cover and switch off all sounds in your cellphone. Dim its lights or swap into darkish mode. Android customers can shortly mute their cellphone in the quick-settings panel, and that iPhone customers can use the mute swap.

Additionally, go into your cellphone’s settings app and disable all vibration, together with keyboard and contact vibration — vibration might be audible, particularly if the cellphone is resting on a floor. 

Rely on textual content messaging to alert somebody on the surface what is going on on. Ready.gov has more suggestions that can assist you put together for an energetic shooter scenario.

Depending on the place you reside, texting 911 could also be an extra possibility. The FCC retains an up-to-date spreadsheet of cities that support text-to-911. The checklist is up to date as soon as a month. I recommend looking out the spreadsheet (Cmd+F on Mac, or Control+F on a PC) to seek out the town or county you are in, or might be visiting, to see in the event that they assist text-to-911. 

If you try to make use of text-to-911 and it isn’t supported in your space, you’ll obtain a message again letting nobody acquired your message and that you must place a name. If it is unsafe to take action, textual content trusted and responsive contacts to allow them to place a name in your behalf.

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Your cellphone’s voice assistant can name for assist, even when your cellphone is on the opposite facet of the room.


Sarah Tew/CNET

When you’ll be able to’t bodily name for assist

  • iPhone customers can say, “Hey, Siri, name 911,” whereas Android customers ought to be capable of say, “OK, Google, name 911.”
  • Make positive you will have Hey Siri enabled in your iPhone by going to Settings > Siri > Listen for Hey Siri. If you utilize Android, long-press on the house button to convey up Google Assistant and say, “Set up Voice Match.”
  • If you are house and have an Amazon Echo close by in addition to an Echo Connect, which permits your Echo to make cellphone requires you, you should utilize Alexa to name 911.
  • An Apple Watch Series 4 or newer system enables you to set up built-in fall detection that may name for assist when it detects a fall and the wearer is unresponsive.
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Share your location with solely those that you fully belief. 


Jason Cipriani/CNET

Other methods to be ready: Shared location, emergency contacts, battery packs

  • Consider sharing your location with trusted emergency contacts. For an iPhone, use the built-in Find My app. On Android, use this Google Maps location-sharing feature. The third-party Glympse app will do the identical.
  • Set up emergency contacts and medical information. On the iPhone, use the Health app. On an Android cellphone, take into account including your personal title or medical particulars as a contact, or obtain an SOS emergency app. On the Pixel 4, use the built-in Personal Safety app.
  • If you are misplaced, emergency providers can use close by mobile towers to triangulate your location, so maintain a portable battery pack or power bank helpful to cost your cellphone — retailer it in your backpack, automobile or different gear. Your cellphone will last more if you turn off features that drain your battery.

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