Finally, right? Even though in most places, it wasn’t a bad winter weather-wise, it’s definitely time to shed the gloves, hats and boots and break out the sandals and spend more time outdoors.
Whether you and your family are getting ready for vacation or sending the kids off on Spring Break, here are a couple of things to add to your smartphone or suitcase before you leave. Don’t worry, they won’t take up much space. And they might just help keep you and your family safe.
Another great way to keep the family safe while away from home, is to make sure they’re findable in five minutes or less. That’s a lesson that Senator Evan Bayh learned the hard way when he and his wife found themselves in Tokyo during the Fukushima earthquake. He was doing press, she was shopping across town and suddenly, they quake struck and they were on their own. Yes he had a staff that was eventually able to reunite them. But if you’re light on staff, here are some great tips to keep tabs no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
Don’t have time to read the whole post? Just right click to download the Make Your Family Findable Shortcut Sheet.
Making Your Family Findable
Smartphones, tablets and notebook computers are a phenomenal way to stay in touch with each other during an emergency. Whether you send an email, text, tweet or Facebook message, you can find out the location and condition of everyone you love in seconds. In a dire emergency, you can even send help, confirm or update emergency plans and even mobilize family and friends to be at the side of someone who’s been injured, using real time information.
Since emergencies are by nature, completely unpredictable, the best way to prepare yourself and your family is to give yourselves as many different avenues of communication as possible. You never know which one will make the difference.
So going back to our example, during earthquakes in Japan, cell phone towers barely worked because of earthquake damage and overloaded networks. But Wi-Fi was up and running. So what kept the Japanese connected with their families and the outside world? Twitter, Facebook, Skype and YouTube! Whether we’re talking about tornadoes in Oklahoma, wildfires in Colorado or Superstorm Sandy, giving yourself and your family options is a smart idea.
Update Your Smartphones
When you created your Family Evacuation Plan (if you haven’t done that yet, go do it now – we’ll wait for you), you listed the phone numbers, email addresses and social media addresses for each family member in your household.
Now we’re going to take that one step further by adding all of that information to each family member’s smartphones. While you’re at it, add new contacts on everyone’s phones for all of your out-of-area emergency contacts.
If cell phone service is down and you are unable to text, don’t forget that Twitter and Facebook can also be used to send direct messages. Those are personal messages that only go to the recipient – not broadcast to the whole world. If you don’t know how to send a direct message, here’s a quick tutorial.
First, you need to make sure that every member of your family is following or has “liked” all of the other family members on Twitter and Facebook. That will enable you to direct message each other.
For Twitter, click on Messages, then Direct Messages and then type in @ and the family member’s username. Then type in your message and hit send.
For Facebook, click the little message icon at the top of your page (between the little people and the little earth). Then click Send New Message and type in the name of the recipient or recipients and click send.
When Time Is An Issue…
Using a social media platform like HootSuite.com may help. With HootSuite, you can send a single message that can be posted to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn simultaneously, ensuring that your family or friends would see your message immediately, no matter what site they happen to be on at the moment.
The Value Of A Photo
During the Joplin tornado, even lifelong residents found themselves disoriented when the tornado turned their normal landmarks into kindling.
If your spouse or kids don’t know where they are after an emergency and need help a quick photo texted or uploaded to Instagram or Facebook could help you locate them. This is especially true of GPS enabled phones or photos with geolocation.
Creating A Communications Plan
Once you and your family have updated your phones and completed your evacuation plans, sit down with them to discuss the ways you can use technology to stay in touch with each other during a disaster.
Come up with some sample scenarios; for example, if a disaster were to happen while your family members were at work, at school or running errands during a normal day.
How would you connect with each other?
Would you text each other, or would calling or emailing be faster?
If you have teens or young adults at home, their natural proclivity may be to send out a text or a tweet on Twitter, to update everyone, including you, on their location or situation.
Find out the types of communication everyone prefers and then create an emergency communication plan that makes sense for your family.
Another great discussion to have with your family, especially with school age children, is what they would do if they had to get a hold of you but the cell phone system was out, or what to do if there was an area-wide blackout. Don’t laugh, that actually happened to us in California!
Kids are so used to technology that they might not have the experience that they need to do things the old school way. The best way to plan is to give yourselves as many ways as possible to stay connected. Then if one or two normal methods are unusable, you’ll all simply turn to a different method to reach each other.
Grab The Sat Phone
If you’re in an area with frequent emergencies like tornadoes or hurricanes, live out in the country or have a family member in a foreign country, consider getting satellite phones.
They work in remote areas where there is no cell phone coverage and when cell towers are down. If you don’t want the expense of a dedicated satellite phone, there are a few devices that turn your smartphone into a satellite phone.
What’s The Code?
Lastly, consider creating a Family Emergency Code or Word. This is a code or word that only you and your immediate family know.
When a family member says it, texts it or emails it to the rest of the family, it signals that they’re in trouble and need help.
It’s only to be used in extreme emergency and means that everyone needs to drop what they’re doing and establish contact with each other, immediately.
Find My Family ASAP
Find My Friends is an iPhone app that is designed to let you know at a glance where your friends are. But you can also use it to immediately locate your children, spouse and loved ones in an emergency.
All your family has to do is allow you access on their phones, and if need be, you can immediately see where everyone is in real time, complete with map and directions.
Now that you know what to do, go download our free shortcut sheet, How To Make Your Family Findable, use it to update your phones, grab your flip flops and sunscreen and you’ll be on your way.
Happy Spring! #springbreak #familyvacation
Have Fun Getting Your Stuff Together! We’ll talk later…
More Amazing Things You Can Do In 5 Minutes Or Less
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