Smart home technology is gaining major traction. Recent research suggests that 32% of U.S. households have a device, and despite the pandemic, around half of consumers purchased at least one smart device last year — and for good reason. Programmable smart thermostats can make homes more energy-efficient, smart locks allow people to control access with an app, and smart water detectors can alert residents to leaks before they become big issues. Still, all these devices need power and internet connectivity to function, so what happens when a home has neither?

Within the past few years, heat waves and wildfires in California and tropical storms on the East Coast left many people without electricity for extended periods. More recently, millions of Texans lost power for days during a deadly winter storm. While a 2018 survey showed that 76% of people had supplies such as food and water in case of storms, another 75% took no other precautions to prepare for impending disasters. In situations when natural disasters and other emergencies strike — and when people depend on technology more than ever — knowing how smart home tech will react and what it’s capable of is crucial.

Smart home devices will continue to enjoy rapid adoption thanks to their convenience, but it’s important to understand how they can change your disaster response plan. To prepare your family and your smart home for an emergency or outage, follow these steps:

1. Ensure all critical devices have backup power.

For smart home tech owners, power outages can be more than just an inconvenience if your system requires power for basic functionality. Make sure that you have backup batteries on-hand for any critical devices (like door locks), so you’ll be able to ensure that you or any emergency responders can access your property when needed.

Another option is purchasing a generator to act as an insurance policy. If an outage is forecasted to last an extended period, a portable generator with a transfer kit or a standby generator can allow you to run essential devices. Just make sure you have gasoline or propane on-hand (unless you buy a natural gas generator). Lastly, small solar panels and battery packs can keep small electronics going for days.

2. Make sure technology is properly installed and configured.

Some property automation technologies — like water sensors or carbon monoxide detectors — are designed to prevent disasters. But if the tech hasn’t been installed or configured correctly, it won’t do much good. Similarly, a misaligned electronic lock could prevent a door from being remotely locked or unlocked.

Professional installation might seem expensive, but hiring a pro now can ensure the technology is there for you during an emergency. When in doubt, keep in mind these rules: Always keep the software updated, and try to buy products from trusted brands that you know have the resources to keep you and your devices secure and functioning.

3. Set up your family with logins and notifications.

Because smart home technology is relatively new, it’s easy for some people to assume that it’s too complex to navigate. Combat this assumption by setting up logins for your family members and teaching them the basics of how to control smart devices. Knowing the ins and outs of smart home technology makes things easier if emergencies interrupt normal operations. It’s also helpful to keep a cheat sheet of the most commonly used features in a prominent place (like hanging on the refrigerator door), as well as any necessary backup plans to keep things functioning smoothly.

4. Have a well-rehearsed contingency plan.

When emergency strikes, it’s good to assume that communication will be difficult for at least the first several hours. If everyone is in a different location at the time, make sure you’re all on the same page about what to do and where to go. When a storm is on the way, make sure all phones, tablets, and laptops are fully charged before it hits.

Also, because power might go out and remain that way for an extended period, make sure you have a way to charge important devices with your vehicle. An inverter can turn the DC power coming from your car’s 12-volt outlet into the AC power that comes out of the wall in your home, allowing you to charge any device that uses a standard plug.

Smart home tech has a lot of potential to make homes more comfortable, efficient, and secure. However, because the technology is relatively new for many users, it’s important to know how you’ll be affected in case of emergencies. How will you emergency-proof your smart home devices?

If you’re curious about how smart home tech can make life easier all the time — not just during emergencies — sign up for a free demo with PointCentral today.