Your smartphone can be a vital survival resource in multiple ways, but probably it’s most obvious utility is the purpose for which it is primarily designed, that of communications.
Despite the hand ringing and doom-mongering that some in the preppersphere drape phones with, you should know that, in reality, your cell phone is likely to remain useful in a wide variety of situations.
If you need to summon help, get in touch with family or friends, or relay a message in a hurry, don’t be afraid to try your phone. So long as you have signal, your call should go through except in the most extreme situations.
Yes, cell networks can be disrupted or destroyed. Yes, times of incredible traffic might overwhelm those networks, and prevent your call from connecting. nothing is perfect, but no other device you can carry that easily will afford you the range and usefulness that your cell phone will much of the time.
Initially, a few smart additions to your repertoire or vehicle in the form of antennas and signal boosters can dramatically increase the useful range at which your phone can receive a signal, or allow it to connect to a tower other than one that is currently knocked off line or swamped with traffic. If you do the same thing for a radio set, why wouldn’t you do it for your phone?
Don’t Forget About Text and Email During a Crisis
One thing to keep in mind about trying to push comes out with your smartphone during a crisis is that voice calls connected traditionally use an awful lot of bandwidth compared to a quick blurt of data in the form of a text or email, with the former especially being highly likely to get out over the airwaves under the circumstances so long as the network is still operational.
Especially if you’re just trying to reach family members or friends and let them know your whereabouts, your status or just that you are alive, don’t forget about the methods that you use everyday.
Obviously if you are trying to stay mobile and aware it will be far more difficult to compose a text message versus holding the phone up to your head to talk, but so long as you have even a minute to spare it is viable.
Similarly, leverage social media to its maximum if you have an internet connection, and remind yourself that Wi-Fi based internet may continue to function even if cellular networks are down, and vice-versa. don’t forget to try all of the channels that are available to you through any smartphone!
Stay On Top of Relevant Threats with Notifications
Your smartphone can be useful in a survival context even before an event takes place. Notifications about emergencies and potential threats can be pushed directly to your phone in a timely fashion through a variety of settings, subscriptions and applications.
Everything from local weather alerts to nationwide, federal emergency notifications can be sent to your phone in seconds so long as you have connection to a network.
You can also tailor your notifications, depending on what apps you install, to send notices about crime or other, more esoteric threats that might be going on or present in your immediate vicinity or your region.
every prepper knows that situational awareness is key, and pushing out this awareness by utilizing the power and capability of the information age is a smart move assuming you carry a phone in the first place. Early warning often makes the difference between obtaining a good outcome versus being saddled with a bad one.
Beyond sending and receiving messages another information, your phone can fill a variety of other tasks. One that you probably use regularly if not daily is it’s navigational capability.
Compared to many off the shelf, dedicated GPS units of yesteryear, and even quite a few today, your phone’s GPS capability is extremely handy and generally reliable for getting where you need to go.
Assuming you keep the maps updated and your location systems and settings up to snuff, your phone could provide an accurate fix on your location down to within 3 meters, and easily get you to your destination via vehicle or even on foot while taking care of curve balls like detours and alerting you to heavy traffic or other obstacles.
Even if worse comes to work, you can preload or even entirely download maps and route information to refer to when you don’t have a signal of any kind at all, which can allow you to employ a little bit of old school navigational skill to get where you need to go.
Something else to keep in mind: So long as your phone is on and can make any contact with a cell tower or even wi-fi source it will leave a sort of breadcrumb trail that authorities can use to track you, hopefully, or at the very least narrow down the location where you might be.
It will only do this if it does not have “airplane mode” or similar settings turned on to stifle all outgoing signals. This is a good reason why you shouldn’t keep your phone on airplane mode or in a Faraday container without a damn good reason!
modern smartphones, even cheaper ones, also have vast memory capacity capable of storing many hundreds of megabytes, gigabytes or even terabytes of documents, images and other data, perfect for downloading your own maps, markup, reference text, survival manuals and more.
It is no exaggeration whatsoever to assert that pretty much every phone can carry an entire atlas’s worth of maps and a library’s worth of survival manuals and other info. You be a fool not to make use of this!
But my phone is broken! Now what?
But, despite the obvious utility that the smartphone provides the modern prepper, there are still some naysayers that claim these wondrous devices are too fragile, too fickle and too dependent upon layers of interconnected systems in order to function normally. and, as we all know, they tend to break when dropped, smashed or otherwise subjected to abuse.
I think the easiest way to ameliorate that unfortunate incident is to armor your phone with a bump resistant case and a sacrificial glass screen cover, which does wonders for improving its durability, but if worse comes to worst and your phone is hopelessly, utterly and unusably broken I guess that’s it, and it was all for naught. Right?
Wrong. Part of prepping is being ready and willing to improvise, to reuse and repurpose, to employ the things you have in new and creative ways to problem solve and in this regard even a hopelessly smashed phone can still provide you with significant survival capability through nothing but its components and raw materials but only if you know how to use it!
Consider the following options below, and see if you can think of any others in the bargain.
Use It to Start a Fire
Your phone could potentially be used to start a fire in a number of ways.
First and most obviously, the battery, whether or not it is designed to be user removable, could be removed from the carcass of the phone and so long as it has some charge left and you have access to a little bit of steel wool you can short the terminals on the battery in order to generate a scorching hot, glowing coal with the steel wool that will pretty much instantly ignite any tinder you happen to place it in. A full or mostly full battery could provide several lights in this way.
But let us say that the battery itself is hopelessly damaged, lost or just empty. Now what? Don’t despair.
It is possible that you might use the intact screen if it exists or even a piece of glass from the screen as a magnifier to focus the light of the sun onto a small area, starting a fire, or you could acquire any of the wide, bright metallic components in the phone before polishing them up and using them for the same purpose.
If you can do it with the bottom of an aluminum soda can, I promise you can do it with one of those shiny metal sheets!
Use It as a Weapon or Tool
A phone provides many components that are perfect for crafting weapons.
The aforementioned metal components can be shaped into gigs or arrowheads, same with glass fragments from the screen, while internal circuit boards are easily broken, shaved and shaved into frighteningly sharp and durable edges suitable for making into an improvised knife, spearhead or even broken up into smaller pieces for lining the strike face of a club like some kind of brutal, primal mace.
You can also repurpose many of the components as tools. Metallic wire or other metal parts can be used as fishing lures, choker hooks or crafted into more conventional hooks. Toggles and triggers can be made from plastic or metal alike as a component in a variety of traps.
The glass screen or polished metal sheeting could be used as a signal mirror with the glint getting the attention of searchers and rescuers or just distant parties.
Use It to Defend Yourself
The delicate, small components of a smartphone can be used by a crafty prepper for defensive purposes. The glass or plastic casing can be crunched up into small pebbles and scattered so that an unwary intruder will tread upon them and make noise, potentially alerting you to their presence.
Similarly, the multitude of metallic bits could be strung together on fishing line, connected to a trigger or trap wire as a sort of early warning alarm that will make a terrible racket when disturbed.
Truly the sky is the limit when it comes to repurposing a broken phone’s components.
Survival Apps for Your Smartphone
There are dozens of apps on the market that can help turn your phone into a survival powerhouse. From enhanced navigation capabilities to useful tools that make use of your phone’s onboard sensors and reference apps and everything in between there is something out there that is bound to be an asset in a bad situation.
Consider the list of our favorites below and see if a few don’t grab your fancy.
Adobe Reader – I put this APP first because I think it is the most important. There are many manuals, ebooks and other writings that are provided free on the internet as PDFs. These documents are very helpful providing valuable information in a survival situation.
This shouldn’t be your only source of information, but redundancy is important in our “community.” Plus, it is a great use of time to read up on your preparedness skills when you are caught having to wait somewhere without a book or eReader.
US Military Survival Manual – This is one of many survival manuals that have been turned into an APP. 23 Chapters and 9 Appendix include (but not all): Basic Survival Medicine, Shelters, Firecraft, Food Procurement, Survival Use of Plants.
USMC Summer Survival Manual – Another manual that has been turned into an APP. 16 Chapters and Extras include: Survival Traps and Snares, Tracking, Signaling, Evasion Plan of Action.
Scanner Radio – Listen to police, fire and EMS traffic on this scanner. This APP will display a directory of available transmissions in your area to choose from.
Beyond Pod – This APP will allow you to download and listen to your favorite podcasts. This is how I listen to all my favorite survival and prepper shows.
Maps – There are many different Map APPS out there. Find the best one for you. Having a GPS/MAP APP has saved me more than once to make a meeting on time.
Flashlight – Provides a bright light for you to find your way.
Weather Channel – Check local weather. The current weather will also show on the homepage of your phone if you choose to use it.
Evernote – I use this APP to write down notes to self and to keep lists. When I come across a book that is recommended, I usually create a new note and then use the APP when I go to a used book store.
UberSocial – I’ve chosen to use this APP to access Twitter. I keep up with #preppertalk when I’m not at my desktop or laptop.
Lookout – Is an anti-virus program that you should always have on.
Juice Defender – is an APP that can be set to help conserve your battery. There are many different types of settings from Conservative to Aggressive.
There are many many more APPS that are beneficial to the Prepper Community. Go here and do a search for “survival” or “preparedness” and see what you come up with. Take a moment to read the reviews and try the APP out. If you don’t like it, you can always delete it.
The modern smartphone is far more than a luxury, today, and despite those who would decry or demonize them the capability they can provide in a survival situation is invaluable. In the urban jungles or the remotest wildernesses a smartphone can help you summon aid, find your way, look up a solution and even craft tools and weapons after it is broken.
Take the time to maximize your phone’s capability with smart survival-savvy apps and you’ll be even better armed to tackle a crisis.