Can you count on your cellphone when a hurricane hits?

Making sure your phone is up to date

By Ashley Harding - Reporter
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Staying ahead of a hurricane also means making sure you have an emergency communications plan. A big part of that means making sure you have everything you need right at your fingertips through your cellphone technology. 

There are more than a dozen apps available to help you stay on top of a storm.

The News4Jax Weather Authority app is one tool that can help with preparedness. The free app provides live radar, satellite, severe weather alerts, the newest Hurricane models and interactive maps for you to better track the storm. Users can live stream videos before, during and after a storm while keeping an eye on watches and warnings in the area. Evacuation routes, breaking news alerts and video blogs from the Weather Authority Meteorologists can all be found in the app.

Apps highlighting emergency preparedness are also available through the Florida Highway Patrol, Red Cross, FEMA, and Weather from NOAA.

Verizon Wireless, which makes intensive preparations to maintain strong network coverage during and after storms, offers residents these tips to be safer during hurricanes:

  • Keep wireless phone batteries fully charged in case local power is lost well before warnings are issued.
  • Have additional charged batteries and car-charger adapters available for back-up power.
  • Keep phones, batteries, chargers and other equipment in a dry, accessible location.
  • Maintain a list of emergency phone numbers – police, fire, and rescue agencies; power companies; insurance providers; family, friends and co-workers; etc. – and program them into your phone.
  • Distribute wireless phone numbers to family members and friends.
  • Forward your home phone calls to your wireless number if you will be away from your home or have to evacuate.

"We’ve seen that preparation is key in emergency situations, and we want to help residents communicate and stay safe before, during and after storms," said Pam Tope, Florida region president for Verizon Wireless. "We’re confident we will again provide stand-out reliability with the great work of our test teams, all of our staff and company-wide preparation."

The company also urges the following actions once a storm is on the way:

  • Limit non-emergency calls to conserve battery power and free-up wireless networks for emergency agencies and operations.
  • Send brief TXT messages rather than voice calls for the same reasons as above.
  • Check weather and news reports available on wireless phone applications when power is out.

State officials also encourage people to enroll in Florida's Emergency Contact Information system, where anyone with a valid driver's license can enter up to two contacts to be notified in the event of an emergency. Those names can be accessed by law enforcement personnel nationwide, but only during times of emergency.

License holders can register or update their information at no cost on the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles website and at local driver's license and tax collector's offices.

If you do lose cell phone service, make sure you have this Hurricane Survival Guide ready to know your evacuation routes, flooding and flood zones.

Copyright 2016 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.