According to the United States National Centers for Environmental Information, the U.S. experienced 83 natural disasters causing $1 billion or more in property damage between 2010 and mid-2017. Even if you don’t account for that not being a full decade, that’s an increase in frequency of over 50% from each of the past two decades. And it’s more than triple the frequency of those disasters during the decade before that.
So, whether you believe in man-made climate change or not, the fact remains that natural disasters are becoming more severe – if not more frequent – on average in the U.S., if not across the globe. Knowing how to spot the warning signs and prepare for the worst may end up saving your life, as well as the lives of those you care about most.
Fortunately, a lot of easily-accessible modern digital technologies can help you plan ahead. We’re going to dedicate this article to explaining how to weather a natural disaster (pun not intended) with digital technology’s help. We’ll include:
- How technology can help you survive or avoid a natural disaster
- How to learn about a natural disaster before it happens
- 5 sites you can visit for updates on natural disasters
Let’s get ready to get prepared!
How technology can help you survive or avoid a natural disaster
There are lots of different ways you can use digital technology to mitigate the impact of a natural disaster. For example, you can:
- Track the disaster’s movement so you can avoid it
- Find tips on what to do to prepare for a specific type of disaster
- Connect with friends and family to warn them about the disaster and share information on it
- Reach out to your local emergency response organization to see what you can do to help
Of course, the best way to lessen the effect of a natural disaster on yourself is to know that it’s coming and get out of the way before you get caught in it. Fortunately, there are several ways you can do that, too… with a helping hand from digital technology, of course.
How to learn about a natural disaster before it happens
1. Look for stories about the disaster from a news service.
Usually, an impending natural disaster will be a big news story. So if you pay attention to your local news station – or even a national or international one, depending on how large the disaster is projected to be – you’ll usually be told when a disaster is approaching.
At the very least, if they start covering unusual weather conditions as top stories, it could be a warning sign that something much worse is on the way.
2. Receive updates from a weather service.
Dedicated weather services – such as AccuWeather.com, Weather Underground, or The Weather Channel – are also great places to get early warnings about natural disasters. While not all natural disasters are weather-based, many of them are, and so you can track them through these networks on the Internet or through mobile phone apps.
Many will also re-post government-issued advisories on inclement weather that might develop in your area, so you can plan for these situations in advance.
3. Stay in touch with nearby relatives via various communication tools.
If you have relatives who live across town – or in another nearby town – they may end up getting wind of an approaching disaster before you do, or the other way around. That’s why it’s important to have a way of getting updates from each other quickly. A plain landline phone can work, but a more reliable and/or efficient method may be to use the calling or text messaging functions of a mobile phone (or an app for one).
Or, you may want to use an email or VoIP service on your computer to quickly exchange messages. Some email clients (such as Gmail.com) or VoIP programs (such as Skype) have text-messaging features, phone call functions, and/or even video chat capability built right in! Social media networks are also good places to quickly exchange information.
The point is to keep in constant contact so that you can warn each other about impending trouble and work out a plan to keep everyone safe.
4. Follow your local relief foundation or emergency response group on social media.
Speaking of social media (such as Facebook.com or Twitter.com), they’re also good places to go to connect with other organizations that have a special interest in monitoring natural disasters. These include your local disaster relief foundations or emergency response groups.
They will likely be providing updates on natural disasters as they approach, and will also likely have tips or instructions on what to do to prepare for one… or even evacuate away from it. They may also have advice on what to do and how to help once the disaster passes.
5. Join a natural disaster early warning network.
If you live in an area that is especially prone to natural disasters, you may want to join an early warning network. Probably the easiest way to do this is to go to your local government’s website and search for “emergency alerts” or something to that effect.
You may be able to find a registration form for your immediate city, like this one for Boston. If not, your state/province/territory may have one that you can sign up for, like this one for Contra Costa County in California.
Sometimes, regional or federal governments may have natural disaster warning systems in place that will send out alerts to your email account or cell phone without you having to sign up for them. That way, you can get automatic updates about a developing situation, even while on the go.
5 sites you can visit for updates on natural disasters
So where can you turn to learn about impending and ongoing natural disasters, including what to do and where to go? These five websites are good places to start.
Founded in 1980, C.N.N. (Cable News Network) was a pioneer in the creation of all-news television channels and the 24-hour news cycle. It continues that tradition today on television, online, and on mobile devices in the United States and over 200 other countries worldwide. So, if there’s a major event happening somewhere on Earth, like a natural disaster, chances are good that C.N.N. will be covering it – or at least have some sort of information on it.
2. Google News
Google News is the news branch of one of the world’s biggest Internet companies that runs one of the Internet’s most popular search engines – enough said. Aggregating content from over 50,000 news sources around the world, Google News features trending topics, news by category, sports scores, and even “fact check” stories. If a natural disaster is making headlines, it’s a safe bet that Google News will have a story or two on it.
3. Global Disaster Alert and Co-ordination System
G.D.A.C.S. is a program run by the United Nations in co-operation with the European Commission. It provides detailed weather forecasts, alerts, and impact estimations for natural disasters around the globe. It also provides standards and platforms for co-ordinating relief efforts during disasters.
4. R.S.O.E. – Emergency and Disaster Information Services
This website is operated by the Hungarian National Association of Radio-Distress Signalling and Infocommunications. It provides alerts concerning all types of disasters, including earthquakes, storms, volcanoes, tsunamis, forest fires, heat waves, dangerous wildlife, disease epidemics, and more. It even contains alerts on man-made disasters, such as industrial explosions, major traffic accidents, environmental pollution, or terrorist attacks.
Download the app: Android
5. Pacific Disaster Center
Based in Hawaii, the P.D.C. provides information, assessments, and training for preparing for and avoiding natural disasters. It includes a “Weather Wall” of daily reports on disasters and other potentially severe weather phenomena, as well as a “Disaster Alert” app for monitoring and anticipating potential disasters.
We hope that this information proves useful in planning to endure or evade a potential natural disaster. Remember, staying informed and staying connected are the keys to lessening the impact of natural disasters on our lives. The more people who know a disaster is coming and – more importantly – know how to properly prepare for (or evacuate from) it, the less damage will be done and the fewer lives will be lost. So, as a good first step, consider getting one of these top news apps for your mobile phone (if you have one) so that breaking news – including of imminent natural disasters – will be at your fingertips.