911 header photo

When 911 Goes Down – What you may not know about your cell phone

What if you needed to call 911 or emergency services and all circuits were busy, what would you do?  This is a scenario that plays out during every large disaster.  Sudden onset disasters can create a significant increase in calls to emergency services.  When the Boston bombings happened, so many calls were flooding in from friends and family that the networks became saturated.  Those who tried to call 911 could not get through.  Will your call be able to go through when you need it?   There are ways you can help improve communications not only for you and your family but for others who are trying to reach emergency services.  So what are the best disaster communications tips?  Being cell phone savvy will help you stay in communication longer. Here are some of the best tips for the public to help improve communications for everyone.  Make a pledge to help improve communications.  The decisions you make may save a life.

Disaster Communications Tips

Disaster Communications Tips

Pledge to Stay off Voice Networks: If you do not need emergency services, stay off all voice lines both landline and cellular use text messages, email or social media for non-emergency messaging.  Every voice call contributes to the network demands.  Your actions could save the lives of others.

Use Social Media: Ask your family to pledge to stay off voice calls during an emergency.  Make a plan to update your family on social media.  Leveraging social media can reach the most friends and family with one single text update.

Send “IMOK” text message:  Did you know 1,037 text messages will use the same network bandwidth as 1 voice call?  Try sending a brief message like “IMOK”.  Sending a quick text message to your friends will help reduce network calls. You may also want to post a brief note on social media that you will text “Uncle Joe” with an update later.  Then let Uncle Joe update your friends and family.  You could literally have hundreds of friends or family trying to call you or ask questions in the middle of your own personal disaster recovery.  Tag a point-person that will be your go-to for updates.  It’s a good idea to select a person who is outside of your immediate area.  Chances are those calls will go through easier.

Be brief:  If you must make a voice call and are able to get through, make it brief.  Others may need the phone line.  When disaster rescue and recovery are in progress, it’s not the right time for telling long stories on that voice call.  Place your call, then stay on point in the discussion and be brief.  Establish  a check-in time to call back again later.  This way you can turn off your cell phone to save battery.

Save your Battery:  The primary purpose of that phone is to make a call, you can’t do that if the battery is dead.  Turn off GPS, bluetooth and other apps not needed that drain the battery.  If you still have Wi-Fi, use it.  Wi-Fi drains far less battery than cellular service.  Android Authority also recommends turning off the wiggles. Vibration mode and keyboard sounds all expend precious battery life.  Screen resolution is the biggest battery hog on the newer big screen phones.  Turn the resolution down to lowest settings or, if the event looks like it may be long term.  Livewire  agrees on all of these actions for saving battery life on iPhones. One of the best ways to save your battery in an emergency is to place it in airplane mode or turn off the cell phone between scheduled check-in calls. Is your cell phone dead or lost?  Check your car, if you have an OnStar button in your car you may be able to reach emergency services or help through that method.

Plan check-in times with family.  Take a few moments today to discuss with your immediate family what time of the day you want to set for a call check-in time.  Discuss what should happen if they fail to check in, talk about who they should call if they cannot reach you.  FEMA has a great printable communication plan for parents and kids.  Fill it out today, and place a copy in your go-kits.  You can also scan it and store it in the cloud in case you become separated.

Texting for rescue.  After a tornado in Joplin, MO, a man was saved from under the rubble by texting a friend.  After an earthquake in Haiti, a woman was rescued from under the rubble by texting someone in Canada.  Knowing someone personally that you can text when disaster strikes could help increase your chances of survival. In the United States, on August 8, 2014 the FCC adopted new rules requiring text-to-911 services.  The rules require both telephone companies that provide text communications and certain Internet Protocol based text apps to be capable of handling text to 911 calls by December 31, 2014. However, today, most 911 centers are not yet enabled to receive text messages.To check to see if the 911 call center in your area supports text-to-911, download the FCC list of areas supporting available service (updated monthly). But even in areas where call centers accept text-to-911, existing voice-based 911 service is still the most reliable and preferred method of contact.  If you attempt to send a text to 911 where the service is not yet available, FCC rules require all wireless carriers and other text messaging providers to send an automatic “bounce-back” message that will advise you to contact emergency services by another means.  If circuits are busy, text messages may go through, so if you can’t send a text to 911, who would you text? Do you know your neighbor? Do you volunteer for your local fire department?  Maybe you should, most individuals are rescued by neighbors or friends who know them.

Add Police, Fire and Rescue numbers to your cell.   Gone are the days where we memorized phone numbers.  We’ve become accustomed to having our cell phone make that call for us.  Take a moment today to add your local emergency direct phone numbers into your phone.  If your local 911 call center network is having a circuit busy signal, you may be able to reach them through their regular phone lines.  It also is a good idea to write these numbers down and put them in your go kit, your wallet or your car glove box. Support your local fire department and ambulance services who can save your life because they need you today, you may need them tomorrow.

Keep old Android phones for emergencies.  Did you know that old Android phones that do not have a network plan or sim card may still be able to make an emergency call?  Even on a locked screen, emergency calls can be made.  Place one in your car’s glove box and one in your go-kit as an alternative emergency phone.

Forward your phone calls.  Is your cell phone lost or is it dying? Learn how to get your voicemail messages from another person’s phone.   Most services allow you to dial your own number and press the star or pound key to be prompted for your pass-code.  Or you could forward your phone calls to another phone number of a family, friend or even your google voice number.  This enables you to still receive your messages.  Google voice will deliver your voice messages to your email account where you can log in at a later date and get your messages.

Refresh your phone  When disaster knocks out communications, your phone will need to find the nearest cell tower.  All wireless network providers have a process to update cell phones to find newly built cell towers in your area automatically.   Typically this is called the “PRL, or preferred roaming list“. However you can manually make your phone refresh the list to find nearest cell towers.  This is helpful to do if your towers change locally, or if you travel. The steps you take to do this will vary depending on the brand of phone you use and the service provider. For example for Verizon you dial *228  .  It may also change depending on your device, for Sprint on the iPhone 6  On the keypad, dial ##873283# and tap the Call button.  Check with your provider before disaster to find out what steps you would need to take.

Learn more https://www.fcc.gov/news-events/blog/2011/09/21/fcc-and-fema-how-communicate-during-and-after-major-disaster 

About Humanity Road

Humanity Road is headquartered in Boydton, VA Mecklenburg County and is a top rated disaster response nonprofit that monitors social media to save lives. We support aid agencies and first responders during natural disaster and relay urgent needs to those who can respond. Hundreds of lives have been saved and tens of thousands of people have received aid because of supporters like you. Help us close the black hole of communications when disaster strikes.

Support our Cause!

We are committed to improving disaster communications and you can help support that cause.  Visit www.humanityroad.org/donations to make a pledge today or you can text the word HUMANITY to 41444.  Thank you for your support







Amazon Smile

Are you shopping online using Amazon?  Now you can shop online while supporting people and animals impacted by disaster. Support Humanity Road disaster response efforts with the click of a button! Through the Amazon Smile program, .5% of the price of your purchases will be donated to support our disaster response program.

Start at https://smile.amazon.com/ch/27-2047079, sign into your Amazon account. Once you have signed in, click “OK” to connect your standard account with Humanity Road’s account on Amazon Smile.

Once you have linked Humanity Road to your Amazon Smile account, anytime you make a purchase through Amazon shopping at smile.amazon.com, the organization will receive a donation based on the purchase amount.

Thank you for your support and happy shopping!


Sign up to use Amazon Smile and it wont cost you a cent!  However, if you are in the giving spirit and would like to make a purchase to help our response?  Then take a minute to also visit our wishlist
Humanity Road Inc


Bettie Wooten Tussey

Good Night Twitter

The world is mourning the loss of our beloved friend and Humanity Road family member Bettie Wooten Tussey.  Bettie tweeted as @RVAREgal   In January of 2010 Bettie Tussey joined Humanity Road in response to the Haiti earthquake, and our lives were transformed.  When Bettie walked into a room, you noticed.  She was a vivacious, well spoken and true southern lady.  She was known for her wit and straight forward matter of speech. But she was no wilting flower, she didn’t mince words.  Bettie had a master of the english language and knew exactly what she wanted to say.

It was seven years ago this week that Bettie Wooten Tussey reached out to Chris Thompson to help our group of volunteers.  She officially joined Humanity Road on  January 27, 2010. 

In her own words:  When I saw that the earthquake had struck in Haiti, I wanted more information on it and felt the need to do what I could to help. At the time, I was not aware of digital response to disasters but after searching Google, I discovered that help, in the form of needs and meeting those needs, was being done through a number of people on Twitter. I had a Twitter account but had never really used it. I very quickly joined in on searching for needs and tweeting. Shortly thereafter, I saw a tweet from HR (@HumanityRoad) indicating that they were looking for volunteers so I signed up and began tracking needs using the Ushahidi platform that had been established in conjunction with the test to 4636.”  

Bettie Tussey, 5th Year Anniversary interviews in 2015.  You can read the entire interview here

Her work was immediately felt.  She helped with mapping, recruiting, staffing and filling urgent needs.  She helped track down and monitor radio broadcasts as well as worked on solving requests for help.

In the past seven years Bettie helped support disasters around the world, including the Libya crisis map, Christchurch Earthquake, Recover Alabama, Hurricane Irene, School shootings, flooding in USA and many others.  She put in thousands of hours of service and earned the United States President’s Gold Volunteer Service award which was signed and issued to her by President Barack Obama.

Presidential Service Award

Presidential Service Award

Bettie was a thought leader and was known for filling her timelines in social media with sage advice, wit and humor, often sharing the best tips and advice with her digital friends and family.  She was a good friend and treasured member of our Humanity Road family.  Bettie will remain in our hearts forever.  We celebrate her life and want to close today with advice she shared thirty days after the earthquake struck Haiti.  “Goodnight Twitter friends. Sleep tight so that you’ll be ready to lend a helping hand when the sun comes up! :)”   We will Bettie and goodnight to you sweet friend!

* * *

Funeral services will be held on Monday at Woody Funeral Home – Huguenot Chapel Midlothian, Virginia.  Visitation Prior to Service Monday, January 23, 2017 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm with a Memorial Service at 2:00 pm. For those friends who can not make it to the service a guest book digital memorial has been set up online.  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Richmond Humane Society, the VCU Alumni Association or Humanity Road.  






Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities

Let’s make a Disaster Kit to fit your Health Needs

Have you thought about creating a disaster kit?


“Our Goal is that No One Is Left Behind”

The DAFN (Disability, Accessibility, and Functional Needs) Team at Humanity Road would like to invite you to join us in making a Disaster Kit to fit your needs.  During a disaster, people who identify as having disabilities and/or functional needs, along with the very young and the elderly, are especially vulnerable.  Our goal is that “No One Is Left Behind” in being prepared for both Natural or Man-made Disasters, and the first step in doing this is to build your own personalized disaster kit.

Items will be for specific health groups such as the visually impaired, seniors, diabetics and others. We hope that by separating the items by post you will be encouraged to build your kit until it is specific to your needs and your resolution is complete. Please remember these will just be suggestions as to what you may need either when you shelter at home or to fill an emergency bag, which is compact enough to be carried to an evacuation center. Your emergency supplies should last up to 14 days.

Below are listed some item suggestions for different Health needs.

Foundation Items

Tote with a locking lid

We begin with these items which are essential in making any disaster kit:

___  Backpack (depending on needs you may need more than one)

___  Container (tote with a locking lid)

___  Post-A-Note pads

___  Indelible Ink Pen

___  Index Cards

___ Roll of Clear Packing Tape

Containers on wheels are helpful for moving; a suitcase on wheels is an option or your disaster kit could be put in a little wagon.  Creating a disaster kit does not have to be expensive. Remember to check in your pantries, closets, or garage at home, you may find that you have some of the items already on hand.  

Also family and friends may have items they can donate. You may even like to invite a friend to build their kit along with you, when working with someone else it can be fun but also you may learn of things you both hadn’t considered


Hearing Special Need items

___   On Index Cards make list of key phrases for emergency personnel (e.g. “I need an interpreter,” or “I need announcements written or “I speak American Sign Language (ASL)”. Be sure and put these cards in a waterproof zip-lock bag. To protect from moisture.

___  Extra hearing aids, implants and batteries.

___  Extra batteries for visual or sensory alarms, pagers and TTY.

___  Car charger for cell phone and other communication devices.

___  Note pads and pens

___  Alarm clock

___  Hearing aid cleaner

___  Hearing aid drying system

___  Acoustic seal cream

___  Weather Alert Transmitter/Radio, PC Alert device


Mobility Special Need items

___   A pair of heavy gloves to use while wheeling or navigating over glass or other debris.

___  Extra battery for motorized wheelchair/scooter, Lightweight manual wheelchair, if possible.

___  Spare cane, crutches, walker, braces

___  Patch kit or can of “seal-in-air product” to repair flat tires and/or extra supply of inner tubes.

___  Catheters and Incontinence Supplies, and other personal items.


Seniors Special Needs items

___ Three-day supply of prescription medication and/or a copy of your prescriptions and dosages, including any allergies, Extra eyeglasses and/or contact lenses.

___ List of the style and serial number of medical devices, such as Pacemakers and or Stents, Walker, Wheelchair, Canes, Hearing Aids.

___ Extra Wheelchair battery, Oxygen, Hearing Aids and Batteries, Denture Cup and Denture Cleaner.

___ Incontinence supplies and other personal items, Deck of cards, Pad of Paper and Pencil, Snacks, Drinks like Ensure.


Visually Impaired Special Needs Items

___ List of medications if needed. If helpful, mark emergency supplies with large print, fluorescent tape or Braille.

___ Extra folding white cane, in case your dog is injured and can’t work.Tape Recorder and extra batteries.

___ An extra pair of dark glasses (if medically required) or you use them normally. Extra contacts, contact lens solution, spare eye glasses in case you can’t wear your contacts. If you wear Soft Contact Lenses, plan to have an alternative available because you will not be able to operate the cleaning unit without power.

















Ways of Giving

The spirit of giving is what makes this time of year so special.  It’s an inspirational time sparking passion and fire in all of us motivating us to help others.  Charity Navigator reports that 31% of annual giving occurs in the month of December.     We would like to say thank you to all those supporting Humanity Road.

Here are some of the ways that our volunteers, donors and friends are giving to Humanity Road.

Make a Donation:  Pledge your support of our services visit our appeal page  Did you know that $15.00 helps ensure that we are online to monitor for disaster $100.00 can help provide communications for 30 people.

Payroll Deduction:  Government employees can give through their Combined Federal Campaign.  CFC funds have ensured we were able to be there when we were needed most!    121 lives were saved and 10,000 people were rescued in our response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. $2.00 weekly will help us maintain our online response.

Text to Donate!  Did you know that you can now text to donate?  text the word HUMANITY to 41444 to pledge your support.

Campaign Volunteers are campaigning for Giving Tuesday and you can join in the fun.  Please Like, Love or Share our messaging, it’s just one way you can give back.  By giving your time you help us reach others.  What is #GivingTuesday exactly? It’s a national movement during the holidays dedicated to charitable giving, similar to how Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become days that are synonymous with holiday shopping. The goal of #GivingTuesday is to encourage people everywhere including retailers, charities, online organizations, community centers, individuals and families to come together with one common purpose — to help others and incentivize ways to give more, give smarter, and celebrate the great American spirit of generosity through charitable contributions and volunteerism.

Fulfill a Wish   Another way to give is through our wishlist program at Amazon.  The wish list program is just one way we keep our costs low.  You can be our very own Santa and Stock the HR office.  Fulfill an item on our wish list or share it with your networks.

Shop and Smile   Shopping is another way of giving back by  using AmazonSmile.   Once you have linked Humanity Road to your Amazon Smile account, anytime you make a purchase through Amazon shopping at smile.amazon.com, the organization will receive a donation based on the purchase amount.

Corporate match:   Give your time through volunteering!  We have several volunteers who work for organizations that have volunteer match.  Volunteers who currently take part in volunteer match and donation match programs with Humanity Road include Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and Verizon.  These companies match their donations or provide grants for hours of service.

Charity Auction: Hold a yard sale, a white elephant sale or list something on Ebay or shop our charity sales  here to support us!