In times of disaster or impending disaster, technology can be a blessing. But its benefits can be lost in the blink of an eye, or the click of a breaker.
Sure, we have satellites, Doppler radar, high-powered computer modeling and networks of weather sensors that allow us to see trouble brewing days before the first cloud appears in the sky. We have numerous ways to quickly spread information – television, text messaging, e-mail, Twitter and Facebook among others. Being able to send information from the field during emergencies is also a huge aid to disaster and recovery workers – so it's easy to see all of the ways that technology can be helpful during a crisis.
Unfortunately, it's easy to become over reliant on the convenience of having all of this information at our fingertips.
The same infrastructure that carries all of our beloved tweets, e-mails, phone calls, TV programs and texts is highly vulnerable to things like wind and water – which, if all the reports are to be believed, we will be receiving in large amounts as this goes to print.
If you lose something as fundamental as electrical power, you're immediately deprived of a large portion of that information – your smartphone and laptop might hold out for a while, but will you still have an Internet connection? And let's say your smartphone can get a signal – how long will your battery last?
If you're someone who's highly dependent on technology in your day-to-day life (and you're probably more dependant than you realize) having a generator is probably a good idea, but don't count on having continued Internet access even if you manage to have power.
Younger people, especially, may find their only working radio is in their vehicle and lack a landline phone – which might continue operating without electricity.
The bottom line when it comes to emergency preparedness is: Technology is nice, but basics are better. You still need flashlights and candles. You still need batteries and a regular radio. In an emergency, all of the modern conveniences are just that – conveniences. Use them if you have them, but be prepared to lose them at a moment's notice. An iPad can't keep you warm, and your Droid is next to useless if there's no phone or Internet connection.