I am a big fan of planning for “the Big Dark”, where the power is out for more than 3 days. Analog systems, like printed and hand-written records, will be more useful.
Remember: Emergency preparedness isn’t only for you. it is also so others can contact you when something bad happens to them.
There are drawbacks, mostly around family dynamics this article assumes are moot when emergencies happen.
Note: These are my recommendations. Your mileage may vary. I look forward to constructive input on how best to prepare in the digital age.
Keep an off-line list of emergency info & numbers with you
There was a time where people either knew important numbers and information or carried a address book – a printed out, dead tree address book – and a much of change to use a pay phone (remember those?) to call people. We need to embrace at least a subset of that.
Your health insurance information should be in here. Insurance providers, policy information, doctors information, and maybe prescriptions information should be included.
In certain countries you may need your ID number as well (though US residents should NOT carry their Social Security card or number).
How about this: keep the numbers of your family and close friends in case your phone dies. I could not call anyone except my children if my phone failed, and they don’t often answer their phones – especially from an unknown caller.
As I’m living in a foreign country I carry a card or two that I can use to get me home. In case you’re traveling, disoriented, or inebriated having a card or two to help you get home can be a life saver.
Carry a bit of cash with you, too, in your wallet.
Keep an off-line list of emergency info & numbers at home
This should be a superset of what you carry with you. Your actual cards and birth certificates and stuff (if they are not in a safe deposit box already) should be in a ready-to-carry locked fireproof box in case of emergency. Bank account information, other financial records, and whatever else needed to rebuild after a disaster should be in here.
Throw some currency in the box, too. While it is in there it isn’t working for you, gaining interest or buying food. But if the power goes out no credit or debit card will help. Having cash will help.
I’ve used the Do Not Disturb feature in iOS since it was introduced. This feature allows you to set “quiet times” when your device won’t alert you with notifications, including phone calls and text messages. It can be activated manually or set to activate at recurring times. I have my set to activate from 10:00 p.m. – 6:00 a.m. each day, mainly to avoid “wrong number” calls at all hours of the night.
You have always been able to set a specific group of people you want to exclude from the Do Not Disturb settings. This can be a group you designate in your Contacts or your iPhone’s Favorites list. For years I’ve created a contacts group called “VIP” that I had excluded from Do Not Disturb that included family and a few close friends and other important numbers. While this is handy, it may not cover everyone you want to be able to reach you in the event of an urgent matter. With iOS 10, you have more granular control and can now set contacts on an individual basis to bypass the Do Not Disturb Settings.
To activate the feature select the contact card you want to exclude, edit the contact and select ringtone. At the top of the ringtone menu you’ll now see a toggle for “Emergency Bypass”.
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I am not sure if Android offers a similar feature.
[Android] Use Google’s Trusted Contacts App
Trusted Contacts runs on top of a pretty simple concept, with the tap of a button an approved list of people can request your location from wherever they may be. Users will need to manually approve who can request their location, and once a request is sent, the user will have 5 minutes to approve or decline the request before the app automatically approves and sends it.
This app takes things up a notch as well by adding offline support, in a sense. If a user heads outside of active cell service and internet access, the app will report the last known location for that user 5 minutes after a request is sent. Contacts can also “walk each other home,” virtually. This essentially enables one user to keep track of another user’s location as a live feed.
… Before you can share your location, though, you first have to go through the process of adding contacts to the application…
How to add contacts:
- Open the Trusted Contacts application
- If this is the first time setting up the application, Trusted Contacts will walk you through adding contacts
- To set up new contacts, either tap on the Add contacts button found at the bottom of the home screen or open the menu by selecting the Menu button in the upper left-hand side of the screen and tap on the Add contacts option
- Here you can search through the contacts on your device and select Add next to the individual to send them an invitation to be a trusted contact
i am not sure if iOS offers a similar feature.
Set up lock screen emergency information
This is a old tip but still useful.
Basically take a picture of contact information and make it your device’s lock screen. Tailor the content to provide what is needed without going overboard. Imagine you are passed out on the sidewalk and the only thing people can get to is your phone’s lock screen. What is the critical information you can provide on there that doesn’t open you up to identity theft?
I find this more useful than the login banner message most devices support. One doesn’t have to wait for the message to scroll, where almost all users put the contact email or phone number.
What other things, simple and inexpensive and effective, that folks should do?