Texting to save your life?

Our world is extremely connected through cell phones, satellite radio, HD tv, mobile internet, instant email, podcasting, digital downloads, social networks, video conferencing and more.  Unfortunately in many disasters these services are interrupted by destroyed signal towers, power losses, and broadcast interruptions.  In the midst of trouble, texting capabilities often remain functional after other forms of communication go down.

Make certain that every member of your family knows how to text from a variety of styles of cell phones.  My children have learned to text from a traditional flip phone (push 2 once for 'a', twice for 'b', etc.) They can also use a messaging phone (traditional keyboard) and my iPhone (touchscreen).  Did you know you can text from many email and web-based programs?  Many senior adults may need help feeling comfortable using a cell phone and texting.  (My parents enjoy texting with their grandchildren, and I know it keeps them in practice.)  In an emergency we may not be thinking clearly, so practicing often helps to solidify the how-to text process in our minds.

If you and yours are texting pros, here are a few thoughts that might inspire you to achieve your next text preparation.
  • Always leave your cell phone on. Put it on vibrate or silent as necessary so that you can receive a text message at any time, even if you read it later.
  • Set up a text 'group' with those in your family communication plan.  Then a single message entry will reach everyone more easily. Include a contact outside of your region. 
  • Some phones can save a draft text or saved message.  Consider writing one or two likely emergency messages like "911 Go to meeting spot NOW!" Write into your plan that this is the signal for everyone to get home (or an pre-defined alternate location) as soon as possible.  They should also be instructed to automatically text back their location and ETA, which ensures they received the message.
  • Know that if someone steals a phone, they can text to anyone in the contacts list and the recipient will think it's the phone's owner.  Before you react to any dramatic text (especially requesting assistance like "meet me at..." or "send money") confirm the sender's identity?  This further emphasizes the need for every family member to follow "the plan" so that suspicious activity is more obvious.
  • Remember that a dead phone can't send or receive texts.  You never know when an outage will occur, so keep your phone charged whenever possible, keep an extra battery charged and handy, and have an alternative way to charge your phone (car charger, solar charger, crank charger, battery charger.)

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