How Cell Phones Save Lives During Extreme Weather Events

When you think of "first responders," what image pops into your head?

For me, it's police officers at the scene of an automobile accident. Helping a driver who needs medical attention. Or nurses working all hours on the front lines during this horrible pandemic.

The fact is, first responders come in all shapes and sizes. But these days, first responders are also untrained individuals. And they have one device in their hand: a cell phone.

With the technology available today, concerned citizens can assist and communicate information. They can summon the help of traditional first responders when they see a serious problem.

Not only that, these citizens use social media to inform others where a problem exists. And how severe it is.

There's Always Room for Zello

One prime example of folks displaying this "first responder" attitude with their cell phones is during hurricane season.

In 2017, during Hurricane Irma in Florida, and Hurricane Harvey in Texas, folks used a phone application called Zello. It works as a walkie-talkie over cell phone networks.

A number of Good Samaritans used the app to provide and coordinate aid to first responder rescue efforts. It helped save countless lives.

Government officials have been using social media to communicate details of ongoing emergencies for a while now. From weather warnings to Amber alerts.

Now, individuals can download an app can contribute to ground-level recovery efforts.

Baptism by Fire

One Texas woman who used Zello during Hurricane Harvey is Holly Hartman. The 47-year-old journalism teacher was reading on her phone about volunteers. And how they were piloting boats into flooded areas to rescue residents.

The article mentioned they were using Zello to communicate with each other. She downloaded the app, found their Cajun Navy channel.

She heard many people pleading for help. And others responded that they were on their way. Hartman volunteered to help through the night. She took calls and logged information to pass on to rescuers.

"(The calls) were coming in faster than I could log them into the site's data bank," she said. "Thank God for the Cajun Navy and all their other volunteers. How many more people would be dead today if not for (them)?"

Pointing the Way for Volunteers

Houston resident D'Antrese McNeil is another example of someone who used her phone and social media to help save lives during Hurricane Harvey.

She was stranded in her flooded Houston home, but not in immediate danger. First she began working as a volunteer dispatcher for FEMA.

She connected people stuck on the roofs of their homes with FEMA members on the ground.

Then she set up a social media page called "Hurricane Harvey Volunteer Opportunities." It allowed volunteers to help with rescues.

7 Ways to Use a Phone in an Emergency

It's easy to see that phones have become an invaluable resource in our day to day lives. But you really come to realize their importance in the event of a disaster. Not only can you provide help, but you can also see weather updates, receive important alerts, and even call for help.

Here are some other ways you can use your cell phone to help yourself and others in an emergency:

  • Keep an eye on your social media feeds for information that might help you stay safe.
  • View online local news for pertinent information.
  • Download Zello and volunteer to help as a dispatcher.
  • Post videos, images or information, when you see a problem area that you want to help people avoid.
  • Make phone calls to people you know who might be in a dangerous area.
  • Send a group text to your contacts, alerting them to the problem.
  • Call a media outlet with important information. They can then communicate it to a much larger audience than yours.

Have Your Lifeline Ready

It goes without saying that if your phone dies, you won't be able to help yourself or anyone else in an emergency.

That's why it's critical that you remember to keep your cellphone as charged as possible. Especially if you're headed out the door and might not be able to charge it again soon.

You never know what might happen. And having a phone on hand when you need to call for help can make the difference between life and death.

Just ask the residents of Texas and Florida after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

People were desperately trying to call emergency responders for help, and the phone lines were absolutely jammed. Authorities actually told people to stop using social media and told them to just keep calling.

But how are you supposed to keep calling if your power is out and your cell phone is dying? You'd be stranded.

That's why portable, backup power is downright essential in an emergency. Communication is critical to survival, and your phone isn't any help to you if it's dead.

Our top recommendation to keep on hand for this is the Patriot Power Cell.

This breakthrough backup power device fits in your pocket, and charges in the sun. So you'll never have to worry about the internal battery running out.

See more on this pocket-sized power charger here


  • Dennis Morrison - May 06, 2020

    Bought a couple last year. I and my daughters family use them on our camping trips love them

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