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Cell Phone Use in Natural Disasters and How to Conserve Battery Life

Cell phones are now very common in the Western world and have become increasingly more important in a crisis. There are a number of different ways that cell phones can be  extremely helpful in an emergency situation, as a result it is important that the cell phone be operational and have power in the event it is needed.

During a crisis the battery life of a cell phone is crucial. A cell phone may be the only source of communication available.

Prolonging the battery life of a cell phone can be very important and should be considered a priority in an emergency situation. Regardless of whether you have an iPhone or an Android phone there are a number of things that can be done to extend the life of a cell phone’s battery.

Turn off Location / GPS Settings
Most modern cell phones have the ability to determine the position or location of the cell phone whether it is moving or stationary. Localization can occur either via multilateration of radio signals between cell towers or via GPS (connecting to global positioning systems).

Localization services are used by a variety of applications on smartphones. Each time the cell phone accesses the location services it uses the battery. While this functionality may be incredibly useful, it can also significantly drain a cell phone’s battery life. Turning off location services will preserve the battery.

Background Applications
Many applications run in the background on your phone, which means they drain energy even when they are not being used. In a crisis situation you will want to preserve your battery for as long as possible, so it is recommended that you close any applications running in the background. This will ensure your cell phone will use as little battery life as possible.

Polling Settings
Many mobile applications like Facebook, Gmail, and other social media routinely check for updates. You will want to change the application settings on your mobile phone to reduce the polling frequency. This will prevent any applications from checking for periodic updates or messages which will drain the mobile phone’s battery.

Prioritize
During a crisis you should only be using your cell phone for phone calls, or text messages. Some people have had success reporting emergency details on social media accounts but this is not always a reliable way to call for assistance, if you use social media be sure to close the application after posting a status update.

Application Updates/Upgrades
An emergency situation is not the time to update application versions. Many times if an application detects an update it will automatically download and install it. Check all phone and application settings and turn off any auto-update options. When an update is detected they will have to be manually approved.

Ad-Free Applications
Some mobile applications are free and have embedded advertisements. The advertisements are typically pulled real-time from the Internet which will drain the cell phone’s battery. In order to extend the mobile phone’s battery life it is recommended that you not use any applications that have embedded advertisements.

Phone Calls vs Text Messages
A voice phone call uses more battery than a text message. Unless providing critical information keep your phone calls to a minimum. If the battery life is limited and you are able, pass the information via text message.

Watch Signal Strength
When cellular reception/coverage is poor, the mobile phone is constantly searching for a signal, which can drain the phone’s battery life. Watch the strength of a mobile phone’s signal, if the signal is weak keep your phone off and periodically turn it on to conserve your battery life.

Dim the Screen
Believe it or not the brightness of a cell phone’s screen can impact the amount of energy used. Adjust the cell phone’s settings and dim the brightness of the screen to conserve energy.

Do Not Use Live Wallpapers
Like advertisements embedded in applications, live wallpapers are populated by accessing “data” and pulling the images from the Internet. Any time a cell phone accesses the internet it uses more battery-life. Change the cell phone’s wallpaper to a simple photo or simply a plain color to conserve the battery.

Turn-off Bluetooth
When Bluetooth is on, it is constantly searching for a connection. During a crisis, turning off Bluetooth will help save energy.

Turn-off Wi-Fi
Like Bluetooth, when Wi-Fi is turned on, the phone searches  for a good connection which drains the phone's battery. Turn-off the wi-fi settings to conserve your battery. (note: airplane mode will turn-off both bluetooth and wi-fi).

Phone Sharing
If you are with a group of people in an emergency situation.  Turn off all the cell phones except one. Sharing a single cell phone within the group, will prolong the length of time the group will have access to a cell phone during the crisis. When the battery expires on the first phone another cell phone could be turned on and be used.

No Streaming
While music or videos maybe comforting or entertaining, streaming on a cell phone drains a lot of power. Music and videos should wait until a crisis has passed.

As with any natural disaster, preparation goes a long way. Keep cell phones charged. Backup batteries and alternative power sources should be part of a larger disaster preparedness plan.  

About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage, Inc. a software company for communication software solutions. http://www.notepage.net

 


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