VICENZA -- Earthquakes such as the one that took place recently in central Italy drive home the point to be prepared. How will you survive an earthquake, and then let rescuers and loved ones know where you are?

These are good questions to ask yourself, especially now as September is National Preparedness Month and the perfect time to come up with a plan.

During an earthquake, overload, damage or power loss will plague communication networks. It's important to learn how to use technology and social media to communicate and stay connected after any natural disaster.

Your smartphone is an important part of your emergency plan:
• Maintain and carry a hardcopy list or pocket card of important family and business contact numbers in case your phone is lost, stolen or the battery dies.
• Program "In Case of Emergency" contacts into your cell phone so emergency personnel can contact those people for you if you are unable to use your phone.
• Subscribe to text alert services from USAG Italy to receive alerts from the garrison in case of disaster.
• If you have to leave your home because of evacuation, forward your home phone number to your cell phone number.
• Learn how to use Facebook, Twitter, Skype and FaceTime. In some of the more recent disasters, phone communications were disrupted, but the Internet was working.
• Create an emergency list of family members in Facebook as a Group. It is a quick way to communicate and post updates to specific people.
• Teach family members, including the elderly, how to text. Text messaging services are less likely to experience network congestion during an emergency than phone services. Use texting, email or social media instead of making voice calls on your cell phone to avoid tying up voice networks after an earthquake.
• Learn how to store important documents on one of the many free cloud services such as Dropbox, OneDrive, iCloud and Google Docs. You can access them from any location. With these applications, you also can assign access rights to share information or data with whomever you wish.
• Send documents to yourself and save them in a folder or flash drive if you do not use cloud applications.
• Subscribe to the Emergency Management social media sites and follow their updates during a disaster, emergency or significant event.
• Use social media to post your status to let family and friends know you are okay. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you can use resources such as the American Red Cross's Safe and Well program: www.redcross.org/safeandwell.

Official rescue teams who respond to the scene of earthquakes and other disasters around the world continue to advocate use of the internationally recognized "Drop, Cover and Hold On" protocol during earthquakes: DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table; and HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops.

If there is no table or desk nearby, drop to the ground in an inside corner of the building and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms. Do not try to run to another room just to get under a table.
For more information, visit http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4240216_Earthquake.pdf.

School personnel conduct monthly drills on how to best respond to a wide range of emergencies. According to David Rudy, principal, Vicenza High School, if the school is evacuated, parents will be notified through command communication channels on where to report to pick up their children. Parents need to understand that, for accountability purposes, this will be done in an orderly manner that allows school staff to track the whereabouts of every student in the school's custody. It is essential that parents follow the prescribed procedure and not make individual arrangements with their children by phone or text message. For more emergency preparedness information, contact the U.S. Army Garrison Italy Emergency Management, DSN 637-8015/8022, comm. 0444-66-8015/8022.