Hurricane Sandy: How can we better prepare for disasters using technology?

Hurricane Sandy may have tested our skills beyond what we could have ever imagined…this past week has been a humbling experience to say the least. Hurricane Sandy left many areas in the Caribbean, Connecticut, New York/NYC areas, and New Jersey crippled. Living in Jersey City I have seen first-hand the damage that was done by flooding (not even remotely taking into account the massive destruction in many other areas). I was without power for 5 days, which is certainly just an inconvenience in comparison to how some people have to live and survive right now. I do wish we would have heeded to the warnings our technology was bringing our way…

Emergency Alerts/Smartphones

On behalf of the entire B Culture Media staff, our hearts go out to all of those that lost their homes due to flooding and/or those that are dealing with massive destruction that the hurricane left behind in one way or another. Unfortunately, just because the hurricane/cyclone itself was over in about 2 days that doesn’t mean that there now aren’t weeks and months (if not longer) ahead of us trying to recover from this disaster. Here is a Recent Update on news about the storm’s destruction and aftermath.

My boyfriend and I didn’t prepare for this storm (#Frankenstorm) as we should have (not even close); however, instead of looking back on what we didn’t do right; I would like to focus on how we can all prepare better for the future. We can’t assume another tragedy like this won’t happen.  How can technology help in these scenarios? Obviously, given I was without power for a week; I realized that powering up my cell is the hard part, and then no cell service and/or access to Wi-Fi is another.  But, there are simple things that I could have used that would have helped immensely, and of course only finding this out after the fact, but again I feel it is better late than never.

I have compiled some things that I have done a lot of research on since my power was restored, and just wanted to help others as well.

First off, it would have been very smart to have one of these: http://tinyurl.com/79sftaa

The way that I even found out that these bags existed is by meeting a new hurricane friend while we were all camping out at the grocery store, Shop Rite, where all of us were sprawled out in the aisles sucking up juice from the outlets sporadically placed throughout the store. We were at this store for hours a day (or elsewhere) to try to fully charge our phones and other electronics.  For about $170 this bag will charge a smartphone up to 4 times, so you can charge multiple things with just this one source! Therefore, having this would have made it a bit easier to call loved ones during the disaster, get in touch with our offices that are out of state, etc.

Secondly, having a SpareOne Emergency Phone is a necessity (see picture below). It runs on one AA battery and will connect within range of GSM cell towers worldwide. It would have been an amazing emergency backup phone given that we all could not communicate with anyone due to the massive outages in cell towers and our smartphones losing juice in too short of a time. This phone starts at $60 and can be purchased from www.spareone.com.

Thirdly, there are a ton of smartphone/tablet apps that are available that could be of great help during emergencies like we experienced this past week. I have collected the top 8 apps available on various types of smartphones/tablets that can help in times of dire need:

  1. DriveSaf.ly is a free app available on Android smartphones, Blackberry and Apple (iPads, iPhones, etc.). This app comes in handy if you are in a situation where you’re driving in a hurry, but need to be on the phone at the same time.  Clearly, in a state of emergency the last thing that a person should do is be careless and cause potential harm to others on the road, so texting and/or holding the phone to the ear while driving is a bad idea. This app uses text-to-speech functionality so your incoming text messages and emails are read aloud while driving.
  2. RepairPal: Auto Repair is a free app available on Apple products and Android. It helps you get accurate repair estimates based on your location and includes customer reviews of repair shops in the area. Given many persons had their cars damaged, this is a great app to help ease the pain to find out where to take the vehicles to be fixed.
  3. SAS Survival Guide/Lite. This is a $5.99 app or free (for the lite version) that was created by a former Special Air Services soldier. This will help you learn how to build fires, find water, navigate by the stars and includes a sun compass, Morse Code signaler, pictures of plants that are helpful and/or poisonous, first aid help and much, much more. Available on Apple and Windows.
  4. Maverick is a free app that uses Google, Bing and Open Street Maps to track where you are and where you’ve been. This is an amazing app in case you’re in territories that you’re not familiar with.  Only available on Android smartphones.
  5. Tiny Flashlight + LED is a free app that will light through your phone’s screen or its LED light and is available on Android and Apple.
  6. The Merck Manual – Home Edition is a $9.99 app that gives you access to learn about medical conditions and procedures, medical terms and how to handle emergency situations. This app is only available on Apple.
  7. PressReader is a free app that gives you access to 2,100 newspapers from 95 countries in 54 languages. This is also only available on Apple. A great app to help aggregate news during a time of disaster.
  8. Radar Now! is a free app that provides the most current National Weather Service (NWS) enhanced radar base images along with the current weather conditions and storm indicators.  This is available on Android only. Other ones that provide Apple and Blackberry notification are The Weather Channel (free app) and WeatherBug (also free).

For some other references, for us candles were also very, very scarce, so here is a way to get really creative to build your own out of things you may have in your cupboards: Crisco Candle

Not to mention, walkie talkies would have been more than helpful! Here are some deals on those as well: http://amzn.to/YEUstb

There are also great points of reference on CBS’s Money Watch site for people that are seeking help as to how to deal with insurance companies after this storm:  http://tinyurl.com/bljrzmn

And, are you curious about whether your insurance covers floods? Go here: http://tinyurl.com/axkswf4

I am hoping that soon all of this can be put behind us, but it isn’t going to be easy. To help with relief efforts, as there are many families and pets that have had their lives destroyed, please go to these sites to serve as reference points:

Red Cross: http://tinyurl.com/bpjb7v5

Animal Rescue/Help: http://tinyurl.com/c8w8zn8

Remember, donating monies and doing what you can even from afar is a great way to help as we can all rebuild our communities together. Best wishes to everyone!

@natbdold

Natalie B. Dold

Advertisements

Brands & Facebook Engagement

As thousands of businesses flock to Facebook, marketers are left with the question “How do I increase the number of page likes?”. For starters, the name of the game is basic: Interaction. But here are a few ways to really engage your fan base on Facebook.

Facebook is a two-way conversation between the brand the audience. Facebook is a portal to create lasting relationships between businesses and their audience therefore it is essential that businesses listen to what their audience is saying in order to satisfy their experience and keep them coming back for more. Audience feedback is constructive criticism in disguise – so don’t avoid it, instead take advantage.

Recognize your fans, individually and collectively. Everyone appreciates appreciation and fans should know their voice and perspective are valued. Have user-generated content that showcases individual fans or post exclusive offers and discounts to specific groups or areas.

Ask questions.You get to know someone by asking him or her questions about themselves. The same goes for social media; ask fans simple questions to get the conversation started. Encourage shared stories and content to really nurture brand community and cohesiveness.  Keep questions simple and straightforward to get more response.

Respond immediately. Do it now. Procrastination can become the #1 downfall of brand – so let’s not become a victim. Show your audience base that you are dependable and reliable all the time, with prompt responses.

Host a contest. Contests are a guaranteed way for brands to expand and maintain their audience base and overall business. The key to contests is the prize: Offer contestants a great, high-quality, high-demand prize or product that will get people talking and vying for the opportunity to own it.

Interact. Interact. Interact. Be active in brand Facebook pages to amplify your reach and influence.

@bculture_courtb