What’s the First Survival Tool You Grab in an Emergency?

Of all the preparedness items many of us own – survival food, water purifiers, generators, etc. – one of the smallest could be one of the “biggest.”

It’s the one we would probably grab first in an emergency. I’m talking about our cellphones. If you’re stranded in your car, you use your cellphone to call for roadside assistance.

If you realize there’s an intruder downstairs in the middle of the night, you use your cellphone to call 911.

If you or a family member suddenly has a serious health issue, you use your cellphone to call for medical assistance.

Life-saving device in your pocket

Many of us think of our cellphones primarily as a way to communicate with family and friends. Such as with texts, emails and phone calls.

We also use those phones for social media purposes. And for checking the news. Or for playing games or watching movies.

We rarely think about our cellphones in this way, but they can actually be critical survival tools. Especially at a time when emergency professionals might not be able to respond as quickly as normal, due to the pandemic.

Let’s look in more detail at some of the ways cell phones could help us out in an emergency. Who knows? Our cell phones might even save our lives someday.

Responding to a burglar

Let’s get the scariest one out of the way first. You’re in your upstairs bedroom. You wake up when you hear noises downstairs.

You realize there’s an intruder on the first floor. So, you grab your cell phone and call 911. And quickly tell them what’s happening and your location.

If you have time, you text someone and ask them to call 911 on your behalf. Just in case.

Even if the intruder reaches your bedroom before the police do, at least you know they are on the way.

Wilderness wanderings

What if you get stranded in the wilderness while hiking or camping. First, make your cell phone battery last as long as possible by disabling most apps.

If you have no cellphone coverage where you are, put your phone in airplane mode. That will keep it from searching for a signal, which uses the battery.

Prior to leaving home, install an app such as Gaia GPS. That will allow you to download an offline map of the area you’ll be in.

You can even use your phone’s GPS functionality when it’s in airplane mode. It might take a little while to locate you, but it should work even without cellular coverage.

Extreme weather defense

Regardless of whether you are out or at home, a storm or other disaster could occur. In fact, severe weather is being predicted for the next several months. You may need assistance to survive it.

This could be anything from an electrical storm to a blizzard. Or flooding, an earthquake, tornado or hurricane. Or even a terrorist attack.

Calling for help may be impossible if damage has been done to cell towers and power lines. And even if not, the system could be overloaded with calls. In that case, text messages have a better chance of getting through than phone calls do.

Among the apps you could use if other efforts fail is the SOS app. It uses your phone’s camera flash signal to send an SOS in Morse Code.

Identifying plants in the wild

Getting back to the wilderness for a moment, here’s another way your cellphone can help you.

Maybe your life is not in danger as you’re hiking, but you realize that you need food. How do you know which plants around you are safe to eat?

If you can get a signal, you can do an Internet search to identify plants to determine whether they might be poisonous.

Before you leave home, download an app that will allow you to identify plants offline. Such as Google Lens for Android phones.

Calling out for help

What if your emergency situation keeps you from physically grabbing your phone and calling or texting?

In that case, you’d want to have Siri enabled on your iPhone. Or Google Assistant enabled on your Android.

That way you could say, “Hey Siri, call 911.” Or “OK, Google, call 911.” At home, if you have an Amazon Echo nearby and an Echo Connect, the Alexa assistant can call 911 for you.

With an Apple Watch Series 4 or newer, it will call for help if it believes you’ve fallen and are unresponsive.

Crisis preparedness

There are a few other ways you can prepare in advance for a potential emergency. Here are three of them.

Share your location with emergency contacts you trust. You can do this with the built-in Find My app for an iPhone and Google Maps for Android.

Using the Health app for iPhone or an SOS app for Android, you can set up emergency contacts and medical information.

One of the best things you can do is always carry a fully-charged battery pack or power bank. Keeping your phone charged will allow emergency services to use nearby cellular towers to triangulate your location if you’re lost.

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