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How to Use Your BlackBerry as Part of an Emergency Response Plan

written by: Zakiya Lathan•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 7/5/2011

Emergency situations happen. You can't always prepare for the unexpected; but you can set up a system for communicating with friends, loved ones and emergency workers using your BlackBerry.

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    BlackBerry Lifeline

    There are myriad things that can go wrong, from the little things, to the truly disastrous: your cab could get stuck in traffic, your plane could be delayed, your house could catch on fire, a tornado could total your neighborhood. Many households keep an emergency kit supplied with materials for the most common calamities. What many people don't have is an emergency communication plan. If an emergency occurs, you may want to notify your friends and family of your location and status as soon as possible in order to spare them the grief of watching the evening news with a sense of dread because they are clueless about your safety.

    Just be aware that in certain emergency situations, cell phone service may be unavailable. This may be because cell phone towers or other key structures in the communication system are down. Cell phone service may also be unavailable simply because of the sheer volume of telephone calls being made by frantic people just like you, desperately trying to reach loved ones to let them know that they are OK.

    If the problem is with the volume of calls, this is where your BlackBerry can be particularly useful. BlackBerrys make texting simple. The data size of a text message is much smaller than the data size of a voice call. For this reason, during times of high volume cell phone usage, oftentimes text messages can be sent and received when phone calls cannot. The same is true for email, BlackBerry PIN messages and for BlackBerry Messenger. Your BlackBerry gives you several communication options that may work even when cell phone usage is high.

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    Emergency Group Emails and Text Lists

    Create a group address for emergency text messages. Make sure that you have the mobile numbers of all the key people that you would want notified in an emergency, in your address book. Next, go into your address book application. Hit the menu key (the BlackBerry logo directly to the left of your trackball) and select the option "New Group." Name your emergency group. Choose a group name that will be easy to remember--even if you are in a panic. The main point is to be able to quickly find the name so that you can quickly jot off one text message that will go to all members.

    Once you have named your group, hit the menu key. Select "Add Member." Choose a name from your address book. If there is more than one address option, choose "Mobile." Once you have added all of your members to your text message group, you can test it out to make sure you know how to use this new tool when you need it most. You can send a text message to your group either in the Address Book application or in the Messages application. In the Address Book, go to your group entry, hit the menu key and choose the "SMS Text" option. Once you hit that option, you can send a text message to the group in the same way that you would to an individual. Your one message goes out to everyone in the group list. You can also use group addresses to set up a group email list. To do this, you follow the same instructions for text messages, except you add e-mails instead of mobile numbers to the group. You send emails to group addresses just as you would send them to individuals.

    Here is an example of how this may be used:

    You find yourself on the highway driving near the scene of a multi-vehicle automobile crash. The highway is blocked and you will be stuck in your vehicle for a long while. Television news helicopters are circling overhead giving live coverage of the massive accident. You can see the smoke and flames from the wreckage a half mile ahead. Your family knows your normal path of travel to and from work. You don't want them to turn on the news and think that you were involved in the accident. So you pull out your trusty BlackBerry and send a quick text message to your emergency group address: I'm fine. Stuck in highway traffic. These simple words quickly jotted off in two seconds, may have spared your family what would have seemed like an eternity of agony to them.

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    ICE: In Case of Emergency

    Enter a contact number and name in your BlackBerry address book under the heading "ICE" (In Case of Emergency). If you are in an accident that leaves you unable to communicate, many paramedics and emergency workers will look through the address book of your phone in order to find a person to contact. Increasingly, more people are adopting the ICE system to notify emergency workers of their contact and medical information.

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    Micro-blog on Your BlackBerry in Emergencies

    Use your BlackBerry to update your Twitter, Plurk, Jaiku or other micro-blogging account. Use your micro-blog as a one-stop-shop to notify friends and family of your status during emergencies. You can send an initial text message from your BlackBerry letting everyone know that you are OK, then direct them to your micro-blog for further updates. This allows you to send out your status updates once--with no one being left out. This not only gives those close to you piece of mind, it makes efficient use of your time, freeing you up to deal with the emergency at hand.

    Your BlackBerry is your lifeline at work and in everyday life. It may very well be a lifesaver in an emergency.