With spring just around the corner, 33 days and counting, it will soon be time for Kansans to start looking to the sky for dangerous storms and tornadoes.
Many times after these storms, electronic devices may not operate or do not operate for very long, said Barb Sturner, FEMA external affairs specialist.
Cell towers frequently go down in tornadoes leaving cell phones with no way to communicate. This was a major during the Greensburg and Joplin tornadoes.
But using a cell phone wisely can help keep the lines of communication open.
A cell phone uses much less energy to send a text message than to make a regular call. To preserve battery life, if communication is necessary, make it a brief text message, Sturner said.
During a disaster, it is sometimes a temptation to make a long call or send a long text message describing the events. This eats up precious time so only make a call or send a text message that is absolutely vital, Sturner said.
Also, avoid downloading apps because they can take up valuable charge time on a cell phone.
Some other tips can help keep the lines of communication going:
• If a call is unsuccessful, wait ten seconds before trying to call again. This will help reduce network congestion.
• Reduce the screen brightness to conserve the charge or put the phone in airplane mode and close apps when not in use.
• If the power is off and the car is available, recharge the battery there. Just make sure the vehicle is in a well-ventilated space and don't go to the car until the danger is over.
• If no hands-free device is available, pull over to the shoulder to make any communication.
• Resist the temptation to use a mobile device to watch streaming videos, download video or music or play video games. All these can add to network congestion and limit potentially life saving calls to 911.
• For non-emergency communication use text messaging, e-mail and social media instead of making voice calls to avoid tying up voice networks.
• Keep a list of emergency contact numbers on the cell phone and make a paper copy to carry in a billfold or purse.
• Keep extra batteries in a safe place and get a solar powered or hand cranked charger and a car phone charger.
• Use the American Red Cross's Safe and Well program to let people know your status.
As the country heads into severe weather week, take the time to make sure all emergency preparations are ready.
Make up an emergency preparedness kit that has water, basic food, high protein snacks, like tuna and almonds plus a first aid kit.
Another good tip is have a backpack first aid kit and keep it in the car because a disaster can strike any time. And remember to change out the food on a regular basis.
When bad weather approaches, get everyone up and dressed including shoes, not flip-flops, because it may be necessary to walk through storm damaged areas with broken lumber and glass.
It's a good idea for children to have their own backpack with a special toy or friend, a coloring book or other activities that do not involve a cell phone, Sturner said.
If the family has a pet, use a carrier because the animal might be scared. Also take along pet food, pet toys and a blanket.
The most important disaster tool is a family plan made well in advance. Make sure everyone knows what to do and where to go if something happens and the family is not together like when children are in school.
Also have copies of important documents available along with cash because a bank and ATMs may not have power to operate, Sturner said.
Lastly, it boils down to each individual to be prepared in the event of a disaster. It takes time for government help to get organized and get to the scene so be prepared to live for three days without help. Also keep a NOAA weather for constant updates.