The ability to communicate with others before, during and immediately following any crisis situation is vital to public safety. In “tornado alley” states such as Oklahoma, cell phones have become a key element of the family disaster safety kit.
“While some people have the foresight to keep things like flashlights, radios and batteries on hand, every year disasters unexpectedly catch thousands of people off guard, with no way of communicating with emergency personnel or your family,” said Nancy Fratzke, U.S. Cellular director of sales for Oklahoma. “Yet there are simple steps you can take in advance to make sure you can not only reach others for help, but assure your friends and loved ones of your safety.”
Fratzke recommends the following tips and tools:
· Break Through with Texting: If phone service is disrupted or jammed by high volume, try sending a text message from a cell phone. Text messages can utilize short periods of available space on a wireless network and often work when phone service is disrupted. Be sure to show family members unfamiliar with text messaging how to send a message and practice utilizing this valuable tool.
· Make a Long-Distance Connection: After a disaster, local phone lines can be jammed due to a high volume of calls or damage to the local infrastructure. Calling outside the area to a long-distance location can increase your odds of establishing contact, and a good way to let family members know everyone is safe. Ask an out-of-state family member or friend to be your family’s point of contact in case of an emergency and preprogram the number into everyone’s phone.
· Rely on E-Mail: Evolving from early cell phone technology, today’s generation of smart phones can instantly connect users to the Internet and mobile e-mail.
· Know Where You Are: If a storm requires you to detour from a familiar route, the same technology used for years by our military – global positioning satellite () – can help you reach your destination. Whether you become separated from your party or evacuated in a disaster to an unfamiliar location, a application can tell you exactly where you are.
· Stay Abreast of Weather Changes: If you’re dealing with severe weather, staying up-to-date could be a life or death situation. By using mobile services with U.S. Cellular, you can download The Weather Channel to your phone to access forecasts and weather information, along with radar and satellite maps for over 44,000 U.S. locations.
· Create Your Own Directory: Keep all the numbers for your local emergency contacts and immediate family stored in your cell phone for easy access in an emergency.
· Stay Charged Up: Wireless users should charge their phones every night so they have all the battery life possible when they head out the door. A car charger is a useful way to keep phones powered up even if local electricity is down. Through U.S. Cellular’s Battery Swap program, customers can come into any store and change out a dead or dying battery for a fully-charged one.
U.S. Cellular has its own plan in place for disasters. The company has back-up generators at each of its cell sites and the ability to bring in mobile sites to handle higher call volumes after a storm hits. In times of emergency, engineers work around the clock to ensure the integrity of its network, and if needed, quickly restore service in case of an outage.
The 9,000 associates of U.S. Cellular believe a wireless phone enhances people’s lives and a wireless company should be in the business of bringing people together. U.S. Cellular has a wide range of monthly plans, including those with unlimited nationwide calling, unlimited free incoming calls and options to prepay. The company has a growing catalog of phones like the BlackBerry® Tour and the touch-screen LG Tritan and Touch Pro 2, which offer e-mail and Web access. Those features are delivered 10 times faster over U.S. Cellular’s 3G Mobile Broadband network. U.S. Cellular believes in the power of the community and has made a commitment to invest more than $4.5 million in teachers and schools during 2009 and 2010. Based in Chicago, the company is the nation’s sixth-largest wireless carrier, serving 6.2 million customers across the country. To learn more about the company visit one of its retail stores or uscellular.com. You can also check out U.S. Cellular on Facebook.