When the skies threaten, people turn to their wireless device for weather updates.

An Online Publishers Association report indicates that 47 percent of smartphone owners regularly use it to check the weather.

“Your mobile phone helps make life simpler and easier,” said Lamart Clay, director of sales for U.S. Cellular in Central and Western Illinois. "During severe weather, smartphones give you quick access to a host of apps, websites and emergency information that can help keep you and your family safe and connected.”

U.S. Cellular customers with select mobile devices, such as the 4G LTE Samsung Galaxy S® III and Motorola ELECTRIFY™ M, receive Wireless Emergency Alerts – also called the Commercial Mobile Alert System – which was created by the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Wireless Emergency Alerts provide customers with access to the most up-to-date emergency information at their fingertips,” said Clay. “The free alerts are another way customers can stay connected while on-the-go.”

U.S. Cellular recommends the following tips and free apps in recognition of Severe Weather Awareness Week from March 3-9 in Illinois.

Have important numbers handy and back them up: With U.S. Cellular’s free "My Contacts Backup" application, customers can safely store valuable contact information online for easy retrieval, even if the phone is lost or damaged beyond repair.

Break through with texting: If phone service is impacted by a high volume of calls during a storm, try sending a text message. Text messages take up less bandwidth on the network than calls and may work when phone service is intermittent.

Stay up to date with breaking news: There are many free apps available through Google Play – such as The Weather Channel, WeatherBug, MyRadar, GO Weather and AccuWeather for Android – that can provide you with the tools you need to stay on top of severe weather.

Store In Case of Emergency contacts in your phone: Simply program “ICE” in front of a person’s name or title, such as “ICE Mom” or “ICE Dave,” to help first responders quickly contact these important people. Make sure the ICE contact knows about any medical conditions that could affect emergency treatment for an individual, such as allergies or current medication.

Stay charged up: Phones should be kept charged so that customers have sufficient battery life when they need it. If driving, keep a car charger with you to re-charge while on-the-go.