iPhones and Hurricanes

I’ve written several times about how our iPhones have become an indispensable part of our lives. When emergencies and natural disasters are looming, they become even more important as a way to get information, stay in touch with loved-ones, and even summon help if needed.

I have many family members that live in Florida and I’m worried about them as hurricane Dorian approaches. Here are some tips that will hopefully help them, and others, get the most out of their iPhones during the storm.

Maximize Battery Life

It’s important to help your phone’s battery last as long as possible during a power outage. With that in mind, here are some tips to squeeze the most out of your battery.

Screen Brightness

The phone’s screen is one of biggest consumers of battery power. To reduce power consumption, set the brightness to the lowest level that you can while still being able to read the screen. To do this, go to Settings, tap Display & Brightness, then drag the slider to the left to reduce brightness:

Low Power Mode

To further conserve power, turn on your iPhone’s Low Power Mode. This will turn off many of the things the phone does in the background, such as automatically fetching emails, downloading updated content for apps, etc. You won’t need those things while trying to save power. To turn this on, go to Settings, tap Battery, and then tap the button for Low Power Mode:

Note: Low Power Mode will automatically turn off over night, so if you’re without power for more than a day, you’ll need to turn if back on each morning.

Turn Off The Screen!

This may seem like a simple tip, but it makes a difference. When you’re finished using your phone, press the power button to turn off the screen. I see a lot of people just set their phone down or put it in their purse when they are finished with it, leaving the screen on. The phone will automatically turn the screen off after a short time, but these extra minutes with the screen on add up.

No Flashlight

Using the phone’s flashlight feature is another big consumer of power. While it’s very convenient, when you’re trying to save power, don’t use it. It is much better to have a real flashlight with fresh batteries at the ready if you need it. Of course, if it’s dark and you only have your phone, by all means, use the flashlight to safely move about.

External Battery Charger

If you have a battery-powered charger for your phone, make sure it’s charged up and ready just in case you lose power. If you don’t have one, you might consider getting one. There are many different types available at Amazon.com or Best Buy.

Stay Connected

It’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest news and weather while in the midst of a storm. Winds and power fluctuations can make this difficult. Here are a couple things to keep in mind.

WiFi vs Cellular

Your phone connects to the internet using either WiFi or cellular data, and usually automatically picks the best one for you. However, staying connected to the internet can be difficult during power outages.

If your electricity is on, your phone will likely be connected to your home’s WiFi. You can see the WiFi indicator in your status bar:

However, even if you’re connected, if your internet provider (such as Comcast) is offline or having problems, then your phone won’t be able to access the internet.

If you are having issues with the internet even though you see the WiFi symbol, try turning WiFi off, which will force your phone to use cellular data for internet. To do that, go to Settings, tap Wi-Fi, then tap the switch next to Wi-Fi:

Once you do that, the WiFi symbol in the status bar will be replaced with “LTE”, or “4G”, or some other symbol. If you see that, then you should be able to access the internet.

If your electricity is on, you may want to occasionally turn WiFi back on to see if your home internet is working.

Note: during storms and power fluctuations, the cellular network may also be down, and you may not be able to connect at all.

Messaging

Using the Messages app is a great way to keep everyone updated with your status during the storm. By default, the Messages app uses the internet to send and receive messages. The app can also use an older technology called SMS to send messages if the internet is unavailable, but this setting is often not turned on. SMS doesn’t need the internet, though it does need a cellular connection to work.

To turn this setting on, go to Settings, tap Messages, then make sure the switch for Send as SMS is turned on.

Once this setting is on, if the Messages app can’t send using the internet, it will try to send using SMS automatically.

Finding People

Allowing other people to locate you during the storm, especially if you have to evacuate, can not only comfort them, but can help provide valuable assistance to you. For example, if you’re forced to leave home, other people can find you on a map, and help direct you to shelter, gas stations, or hotels, without you having to explain where you are.

To set this up, use Apple’s Find My Friends app, which you can install by tapping here. Once it’s installed, launch the app and tap the Add button in the upper right:

In the To: field, type names from your contacts or enter a phone number. When you’re finished, tap Send to share your location with everyone you entered.

The people you share your location with will also need to install Find My Friends in order to find you.

To find someone that’s sharing their location, start the app and it will show your friends on a map. It may take a few moments to locate them, and they’ll need to be connected to the internet. Tap on a friend’s name in the list to zoom in to where they are.

Send Your Location

If you haven’t set up Find My Friends but need to send someone your location, it’s easy to do.

Start the Maps app, and then tap on the locate button in the upper right to ensure Maps has your exact location:

Next, tap on the blue dot that shows your location, and tap Share My Location:

In the Share Sheet that appears, tap Message, and enter the person’s name from your contacts or a phone number. When they receive the location, they can tap on it to show where you are on the map, and even get directions to that location.

Stay Safe

I hope everyone is able to stay safe and secure during the hurricane, and hopefully these tips will help you get the most out of your phone if you need it. Let me know if you have specific questions using the comments below and I’ll do my best to help.


Cover photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash


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