Three important storm safety tips from tech columnist Kim Komando:

1. Stay in touch the smart way. Everyone wants to keep in touch with friends and family during a hurricane. However, the higher-than-normal call volume puts a serious strain on local cell towers. Thatís where a group texting app comes in handy. You can send a single text message to an entire group. Try the GroupMe app (free for iOS, Android and Blackberry).

2. Know the threat. It pays to know as much as possible about the storm: How long it will last; if itís losing or gaining strength; if its course is shifting; and so on. Check out these smartphone apps: Hurricane ($3, iOS), Hurricane Hound (Free, Android), NOAA Weather Alert USA ($10, iOS) and Weather Channel ($4, iOS; Free, Android).

3. Have a backup plan. Storms are unpredictable. Even with good preparation, your loved ones might find their homes arenít a safe place to be. Googleís Crisis Map (http://crisislanding.appspot.com/crisismap/2012-sandy) includes active emergency shelters. The Red Cross also has an app that includes shelters and plenty of other storm-related information. Itís free for iOS and Android.

For more, go to www.komando.com/hurricane.