If Australia's history of extreme climate events has taught us anything, it's the need to be prepared.
This summer is predicted to be a scorcher (possibly the hottest on record) and that will bring the certain risk of bush fires, possible high winds and cyclones. Then of course at other times of the year we have floods, storms and even snowstorms.
So while most of us understand the need to be prepared for a disaster event, how many of us actually are?
Preparing for a natural disaster is never easy - do you have an emergency evacuation plan and pre-packed emergency kit - when do you leave, when do you stay, does the whole family know the plan, where will you go and are you across the technology to help you keep up with what is happening and to reconnect with family?
Telstra has put together some easy-to-follow tips to help you prepare your connectivity in the event of a natural disaster.
Invest in an alternative charger - If you don't already have one, purchase a phone charger that isn't dependent on a power outlet. A popular choice is a 'power bank' battery pack that can be charged from a power outlet prior to an event and used if grid electricity is unavailable; or a portable solar panel charger or in-car charger.
Customers on a Telstra monthly mobile plan will automatically receive 100GB of extra data on their service if they're in a disaster affected area. As long as your mobile service is registered to an area where disaster assistance is available, you'll receive a text message informing you that you'll be set up with the extra data for use in Australia within 30 days.
Back up your data - store your important data, like contact information and personal photos, in the cloud using an online service. If you have an Apple or Google device, these smartphones have automatic backups that you can enable to make sure your photos are always saved.
Know your emergency numbers - store a list of essential contact numbers for your local Police, Fire, SES teams as well as friends and family on your phone and as a non-electronic, ideally waterproofed, backup. The Telstra dedicated disaster assistance number is 1800-888-888. Keep a printed copy in your wallet or bag and one in the car.
Download and familiarise yourself with emergency services and community-based apps to stay informed on what's happening in your area and share information and useful resources with your neighbours.
Consider a satellite phone - in rural and regional areas, a satellite phone should usually be independent of any damaged infrastructure and can operate in remote locations. If your communications are critical or if you are in an isolated area, a satellite phone backup could come in handy. And if you only have one, make sure it is charged and accessible in the event you do need to use it.
Set up a virtual meeting place - if you have internet access, an instant messaging group chat with friends and family, or a social media site like Facebook or even Instagram, can give you and your loved ones extra information during a time of crisis.
Establish a calling tree - if mobile services have been impacted, find your local payphone - which is a fixed line service, and is more likely to withstand disaster impacts - and call a key contact who can then call other family and friends to inform them you're safe.
Use community-based apps - if a calling tree isn't your thing, you might want to consider joining your local community's app environment. Apps like NextDoor can be helpful for staying in touch with your neighbours and get information on evacuation orders, road closures, and available resources.
Know where your local evacuation centre and emergency meeting spots are and what different routes you can use to get there as some roads may not be accessible during the disaster.
Be alert to changing conditions - subscribe to services that will alert you to weather changes, road closures and updates from other service providers in your area.
Use local information sources - online, social media accounts for your local authorities and emergency services will share crucial information. Your local broadcaster will also share information over the radio - make sure you have a battery-powered radio or car radio to listen in on.
Telstra ia testing the ability for people to use any available mobile network during natural disasters, if their own provider's network has been impacted or doesn't have coverage
It is also working to upgrade 1000 payphones in disaster-prone areas around Australia to help keep you connected during a disaster. This includes upgrades for 70 remote Indigenous communities.
The upgrades provide technology like USB charging for your devices and free Wi-Fi connectivity (to those that don't already have it) so you can get online, as well as backup power.
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