It’s That Time Again!

Another summer has come and gone, and now it’s time to start preparing to go back to school. I know that when I pack up all my belongings and head back to campus, there are two things that are particularly important for me to bring: my laptop and my phone. I am constantly using these devices when I am away at school. My cell phone allows me to stay in contact with my family and friends, and my laptop is an extremely helpful tool both in and outside the classroom. In order to prepare you for this bittersweet time of year, I am going to share some useful Red Cross “Back to School” tips for securing your devices and protecting your personal information.

I will admit that when I am busy and running around campus, I tend to misplace my iPhone at least once a day. (In my defense, it’s never for more than ten minutes and 99% of the time it’s under the couch) However, in order to ensure that my phone is protected, I have taken a few steps to increase my device’s security. First, I have password protected my personal device. It’s really important that I don’t share my password with anyone, even my good friends, because then they have access to my personal information and my social networks accounts like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The second thing I do to keep my phone safe is to try to pay attention and never leave my device unattended. Misplacing my phone in my apartment is one thing, but if left alone in a public place, it can disappear in the blink of an eye. In the event that I do lose my phone, I know to report it to my local police department and use applications like Apple’s Find My iPhone, which helps to locate lost or stolen devices. The last thing I do to keep my phone (and other devices) safe is to remember that the internet is forever. In other words, every person should avoid saving/sending unflattering or personal pictures on his or her device. Once they are on the internet, they are there indefinitely!

Your laptops, smart phones, and tablets all hold valuable information and are hard to replace, so make sure to take these easy steps to help keep your device(s) as safe as possible. And remember, in the event of a misplaced device, the couch cushions are the first place to look.

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Expect the Unexpected: Download our Tornado App!

When you hear the word “tornado”, Revere, Massachusetts is probably not the first place that comes to mind. However, on July 28, a tornado unexpectedly touched down in Revere, leaving a significant amount of property destruction in its wake. Any natural disaster, especially a tornado, often arrives without much warning and with little time to prepare. In this technological age, people are constantly using mobile devices to stay connected to those around them. Our society is becoming increasingly reliant on smart phones and tablets, especially as a lifeline for emergency information. In fact, a recent Red Cross survey shows that apps are now tied with social media as the fourth most popular way to get information during emergencies – behind TV, radio and online news sites. In response to this statistic, the Red Cross has created an extremely useful tornado app. This app gives people local and real-time NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) tornado watch and warning alerts- whether it’s in the area where they live or places where friends and family live. In addition, Tornado app users are provided with immediate access to information on what to do before, during, and after tornados with preparedness information developed by trusted Red Cross experts.

Once you have downloaded the app, it is important to familiarize yourself with it. One of the most important parts of this app is the alert feature. In the event of a tornado, a high-pitched, siren and “tornado warning!” message will sound when a NOAA tornado warning is issued in the area – even if the app is closed. In addition, an “all clear!” alert lets users know when a tornado warning has expired or been cancelled. These alerts are particularly useful because many tornados happen in the overnight hours. If the owner of the device is asleep, away from the radio, TV or in places where weather band radios may not work, the app’s audible alerts can help to save lives. In addition to providing users with alerts, there are also features like checklists to help families create an emergency plan, a toolkit with a flashlight, strobe light and an audible alarm, locations of open Red Cross shelters, and an “I’m safe” button that allows users to signal to family and friends that they are out of harm’s way.

Nearly one-fifth of Americans say they’ve received some kind of emergency information from an app they’ve downloaded, making the Red Cross app development effort even more important. The Tornado App is just one of many disaster-specific apps that can be useful during a natural disaster. During Superstorm Sandy, more than 400,000 people downloaded our Hurricane App. Right before and during Sandy, users spent the most time reading the preparedness information, tracking the storm, and reading and then sharing NOAA alerts through social media. The ability to share this information on social networks or by text or email can provide a peace of mind for frequent travelers or those with family in other parts of the country. Immediately after Sandy, people used the app to locate Red Cross Shelters and to let loved ones know that they were safe.

As we saw with the tornado in Revere, natural disasters can occur in places we wouldn’t expect. With the touch of a screen, you will be downloading an app that can potentially save your life. It is user-friendly and full of great information, so what are you waiting for? Download it to your device now!

The app is free and available in English and Spanish. It’s designed for iPhone, iPad and Android smart phones and tablets. All of our apps can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/mobileapps.

While apps can help you prepare for disasters, it’s important to remember that they are not a substitute for training. To learn more about Red Cross First Aid and CPR courses or to register, go to redcross.org/takeaclass.

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