An iPhone Survival Kit

Owners of the iPhone appreciate its easy-to-use interface, functional Web browser, and the variety of apps available through iTunes, but one family from Carbondale, Illinois has a more important reason to love it. Earlier this year, Christine, Alan, Jordan and Claire Rankin had to endure some very harsh, Midwestern weather, which included high-speed winds, torrential rain, and baseball-sized hail. It damaged their home, and left the Rankin’s without power for over a week. I spoke with Christine afterwards, and she shared with me how the iPhone helped them get through this natural disaster.

“Our iPhones helped us in so many ways… Information is the key in making a natural disaster less stressful. The iPhone helped us track incoming weather patterns, and access information about our personal possessions for insurance claims. The entertainment capabilities of the iPhone helped keep us sane, and its phone, e-mail, and Web browser allowed us to stay in touch with family and friends.”

This article explores some items to include in your “iPhone Survival Kit.” Some of these apps were used by the Rankin family, but I also selected a few others from the App Store which may prove helpful in the event of an emergency. I also mention a few accessories that would come in handy if the power goes out.

Stay in touch & relieve boredom

Christine also mentioned that the Twitter and AIM applications helped her family stay in touch with family and friends, not only across town, but around the world. She talked about the importance of the iPhone’s video capabilities to help deal with eight days of boredom—especially for the kids. When they had exhausted all the videos stored on the iPhone, they relied on the app to stream television shows over the AT&T 3G network.

A few vital accessories for your survival kit

Of course, you have to have power to use an iPhone, and even a fully-charged battery won’t last 8 days with this kind of use. If the electricity is out in your home, you still have a power source in your garage in the form of your car or truck. Use a power adapter/charger designed for the vehicle’s cigarette lighter to recharge your iPhone. They are available through Apple’s Web site or a variety of third-party vendors. You could also get a power inverter to convert the car’s 12 volt DC current to 110 AC. This would allow you to charge the iPhone or a laptop computer using the power adapter that came with them. The Rankin’s used all these methods to power their iPhones. Christine mentioned that if they drove their car around a bit while charging their phones, they charged a bit faster.

Finally, here’s a tip that has nothing to do with the iPhone, but is no less important. If the power goes down in your town, the ATM machines won’t work. Store some cash in a lock box somewhere in your home.

Very few people bought an iPhone with a disaster in mind. However, the apps described in this article can turn it into a powerful, survival device. I want to thank the Rankin family for sharing their story with iPhone Life readers. I hope that their experience will make it easier for other iPhone owners to deal with unexpected natural disasters.

These iPhone apps and accessories will help you survive major or minor natural disasters
Fall 2009
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