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Riding out the hurricane with your cell phone

Hurricane Irene has the East Coast hunkering down to deal with the beast, and those in the affected area need to prepare for the storm. These simple tips will help you deal with the hurricane using your cell phone and tablet.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor on

The East Coast is battening down its hatches and those in the know are preparing for the worst while hoping for the best. As one who has lived on the Gulf Coast for years I feel your pain and know what you are going through. Having lived through more hurricanes than you can shake a stick at, I have some simple tips for helping you get through the worst of the storm and the possible aftermatch.

1. Head to Tech Broiler and check out the survival tools noted by my colleague Jason Perlow. He's got everything in there for tracking the storm and keeping informed.

2. Charge all of your phones, notebooks and tablets ahead of the storm. If there are major outages as often occur during such storms these devices may be your only method of keeping in touch and keeping informed. To make the batteries last as long as possible during a prolonged power outage, turn off everything you aren't actively using, like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and stretch the battery as long as possible. Use one device like an iPad or other tablet alone until the battery is exhausted, and then switch to the next device in your arsenal. Battery life is king in dealing with a prolonged power outage.

3. Use your phone sparingly, and only use text messages to communicate with friends and family. Big storms almost always result in cell phone networks going kablooey, and that's because of all the customers calling/receiving calls to see how everyone is doing. This is a natural reaction, but it kills the networks. Send a text as soon as you can to friends and family stating "we're OK, don't call, we'll call you" and help the cell networks recover.

4. If your data plan allows tethering using your phone by the month, activate it before the storm. Cell data networks come back much quicker than home ISP web connections, but only if you've enabled the tethering can you use your iPad or laptop. I survived a two-week power outage after Hurricane Ike by using tethering to get news using tablets and notebooks. No power means no TV news to find out what is going on locally, and having a data connection enables checking local weather with video for brief moments (conserving battery). Storms like these are much easier to weather if you know what is going on, and hell if you don't.

5. Make your batteries last as long as possible. Turn your devices off all the way when not in use. Batteries are king during a prolonged outage. A useful tool for your cell phone is a car power adapter for charging it during a power outage. Run it dry normally using the conservation tips mentioned, and then plug it into your car's outlet to charge it back up.

These tips are only common sense but worth mentioning for those not experienced in dealing with such storms. Hurricanes are fickle, incredibly powerful beasts and every advantage you can give yourself makes the process of getting through the storm that much more bearable. Be safe and be smart.

Image credit: Weather.com

Related: CNET: Hurricane Irene to challenge cell phone networks

How to track hurricanes on your phone

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