Get Ready: Signal for Help

Get Ready for Extreme Weather: Week 3

Communicating That You Need Help

car in snow

This email series — brought to you by neighborhood volunteers at  Transition Longfellow — is designed to help you become more prepared for extreme weather emergencies. This week is short and sweet: if you are stuck in your car, how do you signal for help?

Take the actions or use our To Do List to plan when you will do it.

Signage and Signals

Consider having these in your truck:

  • Reflective hazard triangles
  • Road flares
  • A reflective vest so you don’t get hit if you get out of your car in the dark
  • “Call Police” or “Need Help” banner for the back or front window – you can make it yourself.
  • Cell phone charger (plug into the cigarette lighter or a solar phone charger)

Cell Phones

“No service” doesn’t always mean no service. In an emergency situation, you may need to call for help. But if you are out in the country you may not see any “bars” on your phone. DON’T PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. According to the FCC, all network providers must transmit an emergency call (911) regardless of whether you use their service or not. As long as there is SOME provider providing coverage in the area, they will transmit your 911 call for you. Definitely try calling out.

Don’t throw away your old phone: chances are you can use it to make a 911 call, even if it is no longer associated with any provider. Keep an old phone in the car for emergencies. As long as it has battery power (and some provider has service in the area), it can connect you to 911. But remember that the dispatcher won’t have information about your location and won’t be able to call you back if disconnected. You will need to call them back.

Keep your phone on. If you’ve tried to reach 911 and can’t get through, you’re probably in an area with no service. If you can charge your phone, keep it turned on. If you can’t charge it, turn it on occasionally and try to make a call. Your phone leaves a data trail that is stored with your service provider. It indicates the last time you attempted to place a call, even if the call didn’t go through. This can help emergency personnel pinpoint your location. This only works if emergency personnel know your service provider though, so be sure to share this information with your emergency contacts.

Texting to the rescue. A text takes less bandwidth to transmit so it may go through when you have low signal strength. Text friends and family members and ask them to send help.

Keep a charge?  You can extend your battery life by reducing the backlight on your phone, turning off WiFi and Bluetooth, and stopping applications. Use the phone only when needed, but if you are going to be using it frequently, do not turn it off between calls or texts. Repeatedly turning it on and off can use more battery power.

Store the # for your emergency contact. Having an ICE (In Case of Emergency) contact is crucial. In your phone contacts list, put ICE before the name of your emergency contact so people trying to assist you know who to call. If you have kids with phones, put ICE before your name.

Next Up – What to do if you are stranded

This email series is brought to you by neighborhood volunteers at Transition Longfellow. It is designed to help you become more prepared for extreme weather emergencies. Transition Longfellow does not endorse or recommend any of the products mentioned in this email series. Neither Transition Longfellow nor Transition Twin Cities receives any compensation for products mentioned on their websites. Products are mentioned for illustration purposes only.