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Staying in contact with loved ones during a natural disaster

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – If Hurricane Florence causes widespread damage that experts are predicting communicating with loved ones impacted by the storm will become difficult, but there are ways you can stay in contact in case you can`t reach them on the phone right away.

Currently, thousands are evacuating ahead of Hurricane Florence. The storm will bring with it heavy winds and torrential rain. "There may be flooding people have never seen before or in a very long time," Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Officer Scott Worsham said.

During the 2011 tornadoes, Worsham said he learned that cell phone signals are sporadic. Sometimes they would work and other times cell phones wouldn't.

Worsham suggests having one person in the family be the point of contact with a loved one impacted by Hurricane Florence.

"If they can get a simple text message to you saying that they are okay. Then you in return, since you have good reliable service here, can call all your other relatives and friends to let them know your loved one is okay," Worsham said.

Worsham said social media is a great avenue to reach loved ones too or to at least find out they are safe.

Social media sites like Facebook allow people to mark if they are safe during a natural disaster. Many people have also relied on an app called Zello.

The push to talk app turns your smartphone into a walkie-talkie. It allows you to communicate with loved ones when mobile networks are overloaded. It runs off of cellular data and wi-fi.

"As a last resort lets say there's no cell phone signal there or no telephone lines in. We do have amateur radio operators that go active in those areas that are requested by the Red Cross to provide emergency communication," Worsham said.

Those signals can travel around the globe.