How to Retrieve Your Contacts if You Lose Your Phone in an Emergency

Authorities say that some people are unable to get in contact with each other because they lost their phones fleeing the Carr fire.
Authorities say that some people are unable to get in contact with each other because they lost their phones fleeing the Carr fire. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Carr fire currently spreading through Northern California began last Monday and has scorched nearly 100,000 acres over the course of the week. At least six people have died and another seven are missing. The Carr fire, which was ignited on the Carr Powerhouse Road in Whiskeytown, is the largest of more than a dozen major fires engulfing the state right now.

In the frenzy of evacuating to escape the flames, some residents have reportedly become technologically stranded and are unable to get into contact with one another. As Redding Police Sgt. Todd Cogle told CNN, “We spoke with several people who left their cell phones at their residences and in this day and age people don’t remember people’s phone numbers.”

In the event of an emergency that leaves you phone-less, there are several ways to retrieve contact information that you don’t have memorized. iPhones by default sync contact information to the iCloud. Users can sign into on an iOS device with their Apple ID and click on the “Settings” app in the main menu. At the bottom of the page there is an “Advanced” section that gives you the option to “Restore Contacts” onto the device, which will replace the current contact list with an older version.

Android users who have synced their phones with their Gmail accounts can similarly download their contacts through the email service. Users can navigate to their contact list by clicking on the Google apps icon at the top right of the Gmail interface. The dropdown menu will have an icon for “Contacts,” which will lead you to a list of emails addresses and phone numbers. Clicking on the “More” menu will also allow you to restore the contact list to the state is was in at any point in the past 30 days.

In natural disasters, there is also the possibility that users will become incapacitated and unable to use their phones to contact people they know. It’s useful to set up the Medical ID feature on an iPhone so that, if this is the case, first responders and others who are trying to help can get in touch with emergency contacts without having to unlock the phone. Users can do this by navigating to the Health app, which comes pre-downloaded on iPhones, and tapping the Medical ID button on the bottom right of the interface. Once there, you can enter in phone numbers for emergency contacts along with info about any conditions, medications, allergies, and anything else that may be useful to a first responder.

Android phone users also have the option to display important info on their lock screens by navigating to the Settings app. In the Users & Accounts section, there’s an emergency information feature. There, you can add emergency contact numbers and need-to-know health info.