Smartphones can help when severe weather strikes

By U.S. Cellular

Severe weather can hit at any time, sometimes with little warning or time to prepare. Increasingly, people are relying on their smartphones to learn about pending storms, prepare for severe weather, stay informed and connected, and recover from disasters.

Social media have become tremendously valuable resources to stay informed about severe weather. According to a 2011 survey conducted by the American Red Cross, the Congressional Management Foundation and other organizations, almost half the respondents said they’d use social media in the event of a disaster to let relatives and friends know they were safe. The research also showed that people are more likely to take the proper steps if they observe others preparing for severe weather.

We know that your phone is your lifeline and is an important resource during severe weather,” said Laurie Poellinger, director of sales for U.S. Cellular in northern Illinois. “It’s a good idea to have a few key apps downloaded on your device to make sure you’re prepared in case a storm hits.”

When the skies threaten, U.S. Cellular recommends the following tips, websites and free apps to help you weather the storm:

Check the weather — Forty-seven percent of smartphone owners regularly use their mobile devices to check the weather, according to an Online Publishers Association report. is a great resource and offers an app for customizable weather updates.

Get emergency alerts — U.S. Cellular customers with CMAS capable mobile devices, such as 4G LTE iPhone, can receive Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) — also called the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) — a free service created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Access social media — Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are quick and easy ways to keep in touch with everyone in your network. You can get information about threatening weather as it happens, discuss emergency preparations, stay in touch with loved ones, and receive important updates from your neighborhood, town and state. Having these apps downloaded on your device ensures you can access your social networks on-the-go.

Stay in touch by text — If phone service is impacted by a high volume of calls during a storm, try sending a text message. Because texting takes up less network bandwidth than calls, customers can often text successfully even if they can’t place or receive calls.

Prepare and recover — The American Red Cross has a free app to help people prepare for storms, track the weather, and request assistance during and after a storm. The Red Cross app also has a section where people can learn how they can help others impacted by storms by donating items and listing volunteer opportunities.

Get breaking news — With free news apps like the CNN app or AP app, you’ll always have breaking news at your fingertips. These news apps, combined with your local news stations’ apps, can keep you up-to-date on weather updates, road closures, evacuation recommendations and damage reports.

Posted Jan. 29, 2014

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