Getting The Internet During Disaster
Hurricane Sandy sucker punched the Cleveland area last week leaving me and others without power for 6 days. As frustrating as it was to deal without power, a very cold house, no fridge and rising sump pump waters threatening to flood my basement, I was lucky. We were safe and my house was fine (no falling tree damage or worse). Additionally there were pockets of areas within the Cleveland area that had power back on within a day or two. So while we were without power, I could go to the neighboring suburb rec center to warm up, charge my phone, and let the kids run around the basketball court or swim in the indoor pool.
We also had a basic little camping generator that we used to power the sump pump intermittantly and to power a TV or recharge cell phones. (Remember it is a camping generator, it was meant to power a small TV and light. A sump pump definitely had it at its limits.) We have been off cable and satellite for almost 2 yrs. We get our TV over the airwaves and use Netflix or Amazon on Demand to get other cable type programs. We have AT&T Uverse for phone and Internet, just not TV. We save a bundle doing this. We also learned that it can also help in an emergency. Sandy not only killed the power but it killed AT&T service as well as other cable and phone providers. That meant no Internet for us, but for a large portion of our neighbors that also meant no TV as well as no Internet, even if they had power. With only a small radio, you feel cut off from the outside world.
Thankfully we had our cell phones and we could charge them. While Sandy took out a bunch of cell phone towers, there were still enough left for us surf and find information via 3 and 4G. However, this is not the case for many on the East Coast. With fewer cell phone towers left standing and a larger population, people’s smartphones aren’t very smart. People aren’t always able to call somebody, their data stream has gone down to a data drip and their battery is quickly moving toward dead because the phone boosts battery power to try and help the signal. The only thing that works is good ol’ reliable SMS texting.
However texting can only do so much. Right? Wrong! I read an article yesterday about how people can leverage SMS texting to surf the Internet (Google), get email, even use Twitter and Facebook. Doing this allows you to stay in touch with events without relying upon your phone needing a decent data stream from a cell tower.
“How to use the Internet when the Internet is gone” is a good step by step article on how to do all of the things I mentioned. Some things like Facebook and getting your email via text requires you do some things while the Internet is still up, so if you did it Monday morning before the storm, or if can find a place where you can get online then you can set yourself up. Google and Twitter doesn’t need any advanced set up, it can be done all via texting.
Here is what I got when I Googled the hours of the rec center in a nearby suburb.
While I didn’t get the hours I did get the phone number to call them. It isn’t perfect but if you can’t even get online, it is better than nothing.
I am not sure how medical libraries can leverage this information to help provide services during a disaster. However it is something good to know and librarians might want to add it to their disaster plans or at the very least let their users know about it.