Ask Trish: Tech & Natural Disasters

Hey Trish – there have been so many terrible natural disasters lately…is there any way to use technology to protect…

Aug 29, 2023

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By Trisha Prabhu

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“Hey Trish – there have been so many terrible natural disasters lately…is there any way to use technology to protect yourself?”

Hi there, and welcome back to Ask Trish! I hope you’re all well and having a great week. (Can you believe that September is almost here? The time really does fly by…)

Thank you so much to this week’s question-er for the deeply important, topical question. You’re right – for those of you not in the US, the US has seen a number of horrible natural disasters/hazards as of late, among them, the Maui wildfires in Hawaii (which absolutely devastated Maui), Tropical Storm Hillary (which caused serious damage in South California), and, at the time of writing this article, an up-and-coming Tropical Storm, Tropical Storm Idalia. These natural disasters/hazards are, of course, awful, destroying property, seriously injuring or hurting individuals, and forcing communities to spend weeks and months slowly rebuilding all that they have lost.

It’s incredibly important, then, that folks know if/how they can lean on tech/the internet as a resource to protect themselves/their loved ones when natural disasters/hazards ensue. The good news is that you can absolutely leverage technology and the internet in these scenarios. And in this week’s post, I’m going to offer y’all a brief guide as to how. Please, please keep in mind – as always – that this post is meant to be a brief introduction, not the end-all-be-all on this subject. I hope you use it as a jumping off point from which to do additional research.

With that said, let’s get into it…here it is: a brief list of how you can/should lean on technology and the internet to prepare for a natural disaster/hazard.

Turn off/close…

  • any apps that absorb a lot of energy – remember, even if they’re running in the background, they might be draining your battery

Turn on…

  • Low Power Mode – once again, so you can prevent your battery from being drained.
  • the FindMy/similar app on your phone, through which you can share your location which friends and family


  • social media platforms, like Facebook, to mark yourself safe during a crisis. On Facebook, you can do this via their Crisis Response page
  • a Ziploc bag or other plastic bag to carry your phone around – this minimizes the chance it gets wet. (As I’m sure you’ll agree, this is not the best time to find out if your phone really is water-proof!)
  • if need be, your phone’s SOS service…both Android and iOS have built-in features to help you contact law enforcement and even share your location with specific folks (note that in the latter case, you need to set this up beforehand)

Download/follow/sign up…

  • the Google Maps information for your local area, in case you don’t have access to WiFi or cell service is inconsistent. This way, if you need to navigate yourself to safety, you can
  • any relevant emergency/informational accounts on social media platforms – this is a great way to ensure that you can stay up-to-date with the latest information
  •  any local emergency alerts
  • the FEMA app (if you didn’t know, FEMA stands for Federal Emergency Management Agency!), which has plenty of extremely useful information on how to protect yourself amidst crisis
  • crisis-specific apps that can help your monitor and respond to crises (the linked article has some great apps to check out!)

If you’ve been affected by the Maui wildfires or Tropical Storm Hilary (or if you’re now in the path of Tropical Storm Idalia), know that I’m thinking of you and all you’ve lost – and that my heart is hurting for and with you. You and your families are in my prayers – stay safe and take care of yourselves. (For those of you that have been more fortunate, consider what you can do (of course, within your means!) to support the victims of these natural disasters; in the case of the Maui wildfires, for instance, you can donate to the Maui Strong Fund.)

I sincerely hope that none of you ever experience (or ever again experience) natural disaster, but if you do, I hope that this post is a valuable resource that you can turn to. Before I wrap up this post, as always, it’s time for my ~shameless~ plug to all of you: if you’ve got thoughts, questions, or concerns about the Internet, please share them here! Your question just might be featured in an upcoming TikTok/blog post. Anything you’re wondering about is fair game – so don’t ever fear that your question isn’t “relevant.” There are definitely other young people wondering the same things! So don’t hesitate – fill out the form. I can’t wait to hear from you – thank you so much in advance for your questions.

Wishing you all a great start to September,


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