The following is a guest post from James Rooney, senior manager for Microsoft’s Technology for Good program. It has been gently edited for the purposes of the RW blog.
Do you and your family have a plan for when disaster strikes? Last week marked National Hurricane Preparedness Week, and while every storm season comes with uncertainty, there are ways to be prepared and stay safe using the latest technology.
Here are several tips and resources from Microsoft on how to stay safe and out of harm’s way during natural disasters:
1. Stay Connected: Use technology to your advantage
During times of disaster, social media and texting are quick and effective ways to communicate with friends and family.
Last year, Microsoft launched HelpBridge, an app designed to help people connect with one another and with volunteer and donation opportunities during any type of disaster. HelpBridge is a free cross-platform mobile application (Windows Phone, Android, iOS) that provides you with the ability to send status updates to preselected contact groups via email, SMS, Twitter and Facebook. Through your phone’s GPS capabilities you can also choose whether to share your location in your alerts. Microsoft just released an update to the app including a new easy to navigate User Interface and push notifications. In times of disaster, Skype can also help you stay connected via the internet or a mobile device when phone services are down.
2. Plan Ahead: Develop a family emergency plan
One of the best ways you can weather the storm is to prepare for it. Microsoft Excel offers several free templates, including emergency contact lists and family emergency plans. Remember to plan for senior citizens and pets in your household, and communicate this plan to family and friends so that they are aware. Your plan can be accessed during a disaster by saving it to a cloud service like OneDrive, making your documents accessible on any computer or smartphone – even when internet access is not available.
The United States Department of Homeland Security also offers several resources and games to make disaster preparedness planning easy for the whole family, including the Facebook application bReddi, which helps you and your family prepare for emergencies. The American Red Cross and FEMA provide extensive preparation guidance and status information for various types of natural disasters, including hurricanes.
3. Use Your Resources and Take Action: Monitor your health information
Quick and reliable access to your health and medical information is important to ensure the appropriate medical aid during a natural disaster. HealthVault helps you gather, store, use, and share important health information for you and your family by creating an emergency profile. Here you can manage and track your family’s medical contacts, allergies, medication, immunizations, and health conditions. Your medical providers can securely log in and see a full picture of your history and medical needs.
Download the HelpBridge app here and visit Microsoft Disaster Response site to learn more about the Microsoft Disaster Response program.
About the author
James Rooney is the senior manager for Microsoft’s Technology for Good program. He manages the company’s relationships with strategic non profit partners, develops technology solutions that positively impact social good, and manages disaster response philanthropy and technology for Microsoft. He’s been with the company for almost 15 years. James also holds an MPA from the University of Washington and has founded and served on the board of a number of non profits focused on food security and community resilience.