What a week on Seabrook. Just a short time ago, we were all preparing for possible landfall of Hurricane Irma here. Luckily for us, it went west and we were spared. My thoughts are with those who were less fortunate down in Florida.
We are still in the midst of hurricane season and I thought I would share some pointers that hopefully will be just a review of things that you are already aware of and are putting into practice should the need arise once again.
Well, There Goes the Power
During Irma, we were paying close attention to the worsening weather situation here. Then, as you would expect, the power went out. Now what? Here are a few things that came in handy to stay alert to what was going on.
Local News Apps: I’ve stressed this many times during my tech forums. Download a local news app. Now. Live 5 News, ABC News 4, or WCBD News 2. These apps will focus their attention on our area, and you can watch the live newscasts right from your smartphone or tablet should we lose power and/or internet. This was highly useful to stay alert when reports of tornadoes were reported during Irma.
NOAA: Download the NOAA App for the latest information regarding hurricane forecasts, tracks, and more.
IHeartRadio, TuneIn: Listen live to local radio stations in the Charleston area that could be especially useful during the middle of the storm.
Twitter: Even if you don’t plan on contributing to the conversation, download and sign up for Twitter just to take advantage of the quick and most up-to-date news that breaks. Some of the best people and organizations to follow include @BillWalshTV (Bill Walsh – Live 5 News), Rob Fowler (@RobStormTeam2), The National Weather Service of Charleston (@NWSCharlestonSC), St. John’s Fire Department (@STJFD), and, of course, the good folks at Tidelines Blog (@TidelinesAlert).
Portable Power: When the power went out, in addition to our flashlights, candles, and lanterns, we grabbed our portable battery packs that are a great addition to have-whether or not we have storms. These can be found at most department stores and they are pretty inexpensive. When they themselves are fully charged, they will allow you to charge your smartphones and tablets several times if needed. Mophie (http://www.mophie.com) is a reliable brand when it comes to portable power. TIP: If you need to charge your device, but not use it at the time, set your device to “Airplane Mode” while you charge it. It will charge your device faster, thus conserving more juice in the battery pack.
Another source of Power: Remember that if you’re running low on juice, you can always go out to your car and charge your device if you have a car charger cable (usually the cigarette lighter adapter). Some cars will charge the device without needing to be turned on. Some cars will require you to insert the key into the ignition and turn the key to the correct position.
Use your Phone as a Personal Hotspot: Many of us have smartphones that use cellular towers to provide connectivity to these devices. When the power goes out, our home internet may be gone, but we still have connectivity with those providers like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, etc. Let’s say you have a traditional laptop, or a tablet without a cellular connection. Well, go into your phone’s settings and usually near the WiFi options you’ll see a section for Hotspot. You can temporarily use your phone to “piggyback” the connection to your non-cellular devices. Be aware of data usage when enabling your Hotspot. You don’t want to use your Hotspot all the time, but in a critical time of need, it may come in handy, so make sure you know how to enable it before you need it. You also may consider increasing your monthly data package to ensure you’ll have enough data to use this Hotspot feature for other devices when the WiFi is not available.
Take Photos of Important Belongings: In a worst-case scenario, you’d have to think about life after a major storm. One of the first tasks would be to file claims with your Insurance company. Having photos of your furniture, appliances, and other household items is always a good idea to have on your phone if such a scenario were to occur. I’ve also heard of people using their phone to record video as they walk around their home. It’s the same principle.
Unplug Expensive Electronic Devices, Get them up off of the floor: Televisions, computers, printers, etc. are best to be unplugged from the wall during power outages. Storms and lightning strikes can send a tremendous amount of energy through electrical outlets- not to mention when power is restored there can be a rush of power sent back to outlets that can overwhelm these devices and, in essence, fry them. Some companies can install what is known as a “whole-home surge suppressor” that will protect the entire house. You can read more about Berkeley Electric’s protection option here (https://www.berkeleyelectric.coop/content/surge-guard)
Stay safe out there. Come down to the shop and see us if you have any questions!
-Submitted by Chad Droze
Post & Computer Center – Freshfields Village