It’s official: Baltimore just got whammied with record amounts of snow, trapping many in their homes and prohibiting all but the most essential travel. While we rest in between bouts of frantic snow shoveling, let’s take some time to answer frequently asked questions about wintry tech and proffer up some advice to help you stay informed and well protected.
Good tech advice for bad weather?
First, charge your batteries. In the event of a power outage, your iPad will need plenty of juice to run Candy Crush until power is restored. Cellular devices should be the priority, since they can still operate if there is a local power outage and can be endlessly useful tools (flashlight, SOS beacon, first aid encyclopedia, etc).
So long as you still have power and internet connectivity, keep an eye on your Baltimore’s social media, news websites, and television channels for updates and emergency warnings. Great options include WBALTV 11, the Baltimore Police Twitter feed, and the Baltimore Department of Public Works’ Facebook page.
During a crisis, cellular service providers might get swamped with voice calls, compromising service. If you’re having trouble calling out, try sending a text (SMS) message instead. SMS messages often have dedicated, and separate, infrastructure that is less easily overwhelmed.
Can I leave my laptop in the car if it’s cold?
By and large, yes. Most laptop materials, including plastic and LiON batteries, will tolerate typical winter days well. Unless it’s unusually cold (-20 F), your laptop can safely be left in the car overnight. If you accidentally leave your laptop or computer in the car for an extended period, allow it to reach room temperature indoors before powering back on. If for some reason your gizmo was exposed to high humidity or moisture, give it ample time to dry out before restoring power.
Extended periods of extreme cold (-20 F or lower) can freeze the liquid portion of your LCD screen, resulting in discoloration or cracking. If you know a chill spell is coming, do your best to keep your laptop or other LCD based gizmos indoors.
What apps do you recommend for weather emergencies?
Gosh, there are a lot of options. If you still have battery power and internet access, either wifi or cellular, consider purchasing Dark Sky (for iOS) or Weather Timeline (for Android), to help keep up with emergency alerts and rapid changes in weather.
For metropolitan Baltimore, the Baltimore 311 app (Google Play & AppStore) is an excellent way to submit 311 requests. With easy geolocating and camera access, sending a snow removal request couldn’t be simpler. Now Baltimore DPW’s ability to answer those requests is another matter.
Lastly – and hopefully just a precaution – you should always have the American Red Cross’ First Aid app installed. It’s wealth of situation critical information can help you through common health related accidents or crises. Consider also adding an FM Tuner app to activate and use the sometimes hidden FM radio tucked away inside of many mobile phones.
Can my computer shovel me out?
No, but local websites and apps, including Nextdoor and Facebook, are great ways to find nearby folks who shovel at negotiable rates.
My power is flickering and might go out. Can this hurt my electronics?
It sure can. Computers and other modern gizmos are especially sensitive to power fluctuations. If this isn’t an isolated event, consider purchasing a surge protector (not just a power strip) to protect your wired devices from power bursts. Remember, a surge can follow any wire, so be sure to get a surge protector that shields phone and cable, and has an adequately high joule rating to insulate your gadgets from the worst.
Electrical issues won’t harm wireless or disconnected devices, so if you’re worried just unplug your stuff and rest easy.