Tropical Storm Karen

Your Android smartphone can help keep you safe and informed

It's been quite a while since we last had the threat of a tropical system hitting the U.S. — Hurricane Sandy some 11 months ago, actually — which, in addition to wrecking quite a bit of the New York/New Jersey area also canceled the Nexus 4 event in Lower Manhattan.

Now we've got Tropical Storm Karen brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, probably making landfall late this weekend or early next week. Chances are it won't do nearly the damage that Sandy did — but only a fool doesn't take these things seriously. (And I'm not just saying that because I'm right in the middle of the cone of uncertainty.)

So, now's a good time to revisit some of the ways your Android smartphone can help keep you informed and safe when storms threaten.

Tips for using your phone before, during and after a storm

  • Charge your phones. Now. Keep them charged. And once the storm starts, keep them off. You'll likely lose power at some point, and there's a good chance your local cell network will go down for a bit, even with generator backups.
  • Spare batteries. If you got 'em, make sure they're charged, too. If you still have time to get some, do it. Then make sure they're charged as well.
  • Car charger. Get one. Get a couple, actually.
  • While you still have power and internet access, be it on your phone or broadband, take advantage of features like instant uploading on Google+ or Dropbox or similar service to make sure those pictures get somewhere that can't be destroyed by the storm. Better to be safe than sorry in that case.
  • If you're worried about damage and don't have a traditional camera, use your phone to take a few pictures of your home and your belongings. It'll make insurance claims much easier, should it come to that.
  • After the storm, text messages may work best. If the network's up, it's going to be clogged, and calls might not go through. Text messages have a much better chance. Remember that if you're using Google Voice, it sends text messages through the traditional data channels and not SMS.
  • If you just have to use Instagram or some other picture-sharing service during a storm, don't use a damn filter. Folks wanna see what's happening, and filters don't help that.
  • Use apps like Evernote to help keep track of your emergency supplies.
  • Before the storm, use those gas-finder apps to track down the cheapest fuel. That won't help you with the lines, but it may save you a few bucks.
  • See if your phone can serve as an AM/FM radio, if you don't have any others around. (That's not out of the question in 2013. Some can do it, some can't.)
  • Apps from FEMA and the Red Cross can help you find shelters and other emergency information.
  • The official source for the latest storm info is from the National Hurricane Center. I also recommend Weather Underground, and Dr. Jeff Masters' blog.

And one final thought: Once you're as prepared as you can be, don't be afraid to unplug for a little while. Watching the sensational weather news non-stop before a storm just isn't good for you. Relax. And stay safe out there.


Reader comments

Here comes T.S. Karen — charge 'em while you can


Thanks, Phil. Hopefully we will make it through unscathed over here in Tallahassee. I am afraid to turn off my Droid DNA because I am not sure I could live without my beautiful 1080p screen running all the time. Hurricane party?

I'm a bit concerned, but not by much. I'm keeping an eye out in Lower Alabama. My wife and daughter are gonna be with her folks, but I'll probably be at work - until they tell me to go home, that is.

Hopefully, it'll just be rain.

I'm with you there! The latest model I've seen shows it coming directly through where I live and work.

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Not trying to get political but fema needs to get funded before this hits.

Pass one clean, clear spending budget for them and keep the fighting going on with the other stuff if you have to

Posted via your wifes, girlfriends phone

We don't need FEMA for this. The state and local officials can handle this. There are probably 10's of thousands of firefighters, police, and other first responders in these states impacted. We don't need homeland security to get people fresh water and food. Let the local folks do their jobs. The Govs of these states need to make sure they are prepared. FEMA just adds red tape to the whole process.

i don't know, i work for the state government in Maryland and while i agree it adds a TON of red tape (it's pretty insane) it has been helpful in getting us equipment and such to clean up after out-of-the-ordinary situations like these. that said, i think we are typically as prepared as we can be but it's nice knowing that if something breaks due to added stress from atypical conditions, that it can be replaced regardless of our budget.

A lot of states like Mississippi for example are in the red and over budget and need FEMA just because of the funding comes from the Feds instead of the state. All the states have if they don't use FEMA is the National Guard and any armed forces bases the Governor can use to help with evacuations, supplies, assistance, and shelters. A lot of states don't have the funding and can't afford it.

Heads up. Anything that uses the NOAA will be down. Per the government shut down. Not sure if FEMA is included.

Posted via Android Central App and my Nexus 4 or 7

The NHS site and feeds are up and running, due to their role in protecting lives and property.

Might as well get the worse out of the way so you can enjoy the better

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At first I didn't think much based on the topic. But you bring up some really brilliant points I hadn't considered. Great piece Phil. Appreciate

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It's just some wind and rain. I'm in Florida and in the path of Karen but people go overboard when you say storm.

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If any of your equipment at home is on a UPS (and it should be) and your power goes out, you can use the UPS to keep recharging your phone.Just turn the UPS off between uses so you don't drain it.

I'm in Tally, so hopefully we'll not get too much of it. But we'll see.

I'm right into he middle of that. Atlanta here.

Posted via Droid Razr M on the Android Central App

I moved away from Florida (got blitzed by Frances, Jeanne and Wilma in rapid succession) and here I am in a cone again. Though figure it won't be near as strong this far from land...

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Excellent write up guys! My daughter lives in Pensacola so I forwarded your article to her. Thank you for going above and beyond the scope of duty!

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Hey Phil, I know not everyone can afford them but I think those Battery back packs that have a external battery in it. It would allow you to have just one more thing to help keep you charged and it's good for storing Food, Water, and Beer! :)

Nexis 4 (that's how we spell it in the south) in Destin and Niceville. If the power goes out its nice to know that glittery white back will be there.

Posted via Android Central App and my Nexus 4 or 7

Sounds like a bible for hurricane disasters but I would say to people stop worrying for a phone than life.

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