Isaac may be nothing compared to expected social media storm

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Isaac is going viral.

As the expected hurricane nears Southwest Florida, it's also causing a social storm as smartphone users prepare to use Facebook, Twitter and other methods to tell the world about it.

Isaac would be the first "iPhone hurricane," with users expected to capture the storm — if they can keep their phones charged if the storm disrupts electricity. Hurricane Wilma made landfall in Collier County in 2005, nearly seven years ago and before iPhones and other smartphones.

"This is the first storm that we've dealt with where social media had any significant role," said Gerald Campbell, chief of planning for Lee County Emergency Management.

"The last time was in 2005 and we had a website that we thought was pretty cool. Now we have a couple of Twitter accounts, we're tweeting, posting information on Facebook and we still use our website."

To stay abreast on social media, Dan Summers, director of Bureau of Emergency Services for Collier County, said his team will work together to post regularly, with one person solely dedicated to the task.

"We found it helpful, if there is a damage report and information hasn't gotten to 911 or emergency management, but pictures posted, it's valuable to disaster management directors," he said.

Campbell said keeping up with the way people get their information has been a challenge.

"We realize an increasing number of people rely on smartphones, apps to find information," Campbell said. "It's a level of interaction with the community we haven't had before and it's exciting, but a challenge to live up to the expectations."

Downloadable phone applications, or "apps," also keep people up to date on information, such as Storm Shield by the E.W. Scripps Co., the parent company of the Naples Daily News.

While they prepare to post the most up-to-date and accurate information, smartphone users can ensure their phones are storm-ready, too.

In the event of a power outage, backup battery pack chargers are way to keep a smartphone juiced even without electricity. One way is by using the Mophie Juice Pack Plus, a battery extender available at the Apple store for about $100. It snaps on an iPhone like a case and can add about eight hours to the phone's battery life. It's also at Best Buy.

The ZAGGsparq 2.0 portable Universal Serial Bus, or USB, charger is another portable battery charger available for the iPad, iPhone, selling online for about $100 as well. Rather than hugging an iPhone like a case, it requires a one-time charge and holds enough power to charge up to two devices that use USB ports four times.

Campbell also recommends using your car battery to charge a smartphone. Devices like, iSound 16000Ah Portable Power Max, includes five USB ports, so not just a smartphone, but a GPS or iPads could be charged as well, said Chelsie Baugh, a Radio Shack spokeswoman.

Shandra Tollefson, spokeswoman for Best Buy, said cases for iPhones from Otter Box or Lifeproof prevent water damage. The Otter Box has a silicone layer and a hard polycarbonate exterior and the Lifeproof boasts being "waterproof, shockproof, dirtproof and snowproof."

Solar-powered chargers, perfect for the balmy heat after the storm, are also available on SkyMall or Amazon.com for anywhere from $25 to $60.

But Campbell warns that smartphones need to be used in a smart way.

"If you aren't able to recharge, use it for things that are critical, important and postpone things that aren't," Campbell said.

Baugh said walkie-talkies are also ways to stay connected if the landlines and celltowers are out.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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