Friday, September 23, 2011

Text messages, feeds and podcasts to help keep you safe during an emergency

“There’s an app for that.” Sound familiar? With all that can be added to a cell phone or mobile device — from games and news updates to social networking and shopping apps — many of us can have a hard time taking a break from the screen.

But here’s some good news for those of you who are just a little too attached to your device: Your cell phone habit may be what keeps you safe during a disaster. 

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched its new emergency text messaging service to cut down on the time it takes for health and safety information to reach you and your family. The service features a list of 14 pre-written messages for situations ranging from storms to prescription drug problems to post-emergency cleanup. Each message comes with a short set of instructions, followed by a number to call and a link to more information. In the case of a power outage, for example, you can expect to see this:

“Keep generators 25 ft outside door/window. Don't grill inside. Fumes can kill. More info from CDC 800-232-4636.”

The text messages are available for download by state and local health agencies, which then send them out through their existing emergency message systems. In order to receive these messages, check with your state or local health authority to see if the service is available in your community, and make sure to register your phone number to receive updates.

For those of you who aren’t quite so attached to your cell phones, don’t worry. The messages are also available as podcasts and YouTube videos.

You can also subscribe directly to CDC’s emergency response and preparedness Twitter feed and the Get Ready campaign’s Twitter feed to get timely tips sent to your phone.

Your mobile device isn’t just for checking sports scores and connecting with friends. It may also be what helps keep you safe when disaster strikes.

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