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Your smartphone could save your life
You don’t have to look far to find evidence of tragedies in the wake of hurricanes and other natural disasters. Loved ones are separated, people vanish, pets are lost, and it quickly becomes a fight for survival in the face of deadly weather and complete chaos.
Getting through a disaster, no matter the kind, means being ready for whatever may happen. These 10 apps could just be what stands between you and serious harm.
Don’t forget to take care of your device during a disaster as well–having the best apps for survival doesn’t mean a thing if your smartphone goes dead from a drained battery or damage.
1. ICE Standard ER 911
Being found unresponsive is the last thing you want to think about, but in a natural disaster it’s always a possibility. ICE Standard ER 911 for Android and iOS is the solution to that problem. It puts all of your important medical and relevant personal details onto your lockscreen in case you can’t provide them yourself.
The app is free and is an important one to have when you’re unsure what the next few days will bring.
2. American Red Cross first aid apps
There are several first aid and emergency apps available from the American Red Cross, and you should consider installing any that you may need. Among the offerings are:
- A general first aid app (this one is essential)
- A pet first aid app (don’t forget this one if you have any pets that could need rescuing)
- A general emergency app that monitors weather and emergency alert channels.
- Apps for learning about, preparing for, and responding to hurricanes, tornados, wildfires, earthquakes, and floods.
3. PDC Disaster Alert
PDC Disaster Alert gives detailed information on natural disaster conditions around the globe. You can see maps, area details, and the most up-to-date reports on what’s coming and the current conditions.
Many of the apps in this gallery assume something they really shouldn’t: That there will be cell and data connections available in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
Maps.Me doesn’t assume this: It’s a GPS-powered map app that allows you to download relevant map data for use offline. If you’re concerned you may be lost or need to get somewhere you aren’t sure of, Maps.Me is an essential.
5. Google Trusted Contacts
Trusted Contacts is an app from Google that allows you to set up a small network of friends and family who can get your location, detect phone usage, and contact you to be sure you’re okay.
6. Red Panic Button
With Red Panic Button you get a way to tap a single onscreen button to send a prewritten text or email to a list of emergency contacts. The message the app sends also includes precise GPS coordinates so the recipients know exactly where to find you.
7. LifeLine Response
LifeLine Response is an app with a unique feature: It can trigger an audible alarm, a call from the LifeLine team, and a GPS alert to police when it detects your thumb has left the screen. If you’re dealing with unsafe situations after a disaster it could be exactly what you need to feel a bit safer and ensure authorities know the moment something happens to you.
LifeLine Response only works with a subscription, but you get a free month when you download the app. If you’re in Irma‘s path, it’s the perfect time to give it a try.
8. Offline survival guide
As mentioned earlier, many of the apps in this gallery rely on a cell connection. If a disaster places you in a position where you need to survive without the ability to call for help, you need an offline app that serves as a survival guide.
There are a variety of these available for iOS and Android. I’ve linked two here, but you can easily find others if one of these isn’t to your liking. Just be sure you have one if the worst comes to pass.
9. FEMA mobile app
Once you’ve overcome the worst of things you’ll need to figure out where to go to get help and find shelter, which is exactly what FEMA exists to do. Its mobile app has survival tips, provides emergency reports, and can help you find out where to go to get help.
Disasters cause lots of chaos, and that means a loved one could go missing. Once the confusion clears you’ll need to find the missing, and ReUnite helps make that possible.
ReUnite is the mobile, public-facing version of the National Laboratory of Medicine’s Lost Person Finder. Users can report the missing, search missing person listings, set up notifications in case search triggers are met, and upload details to the app to make finding loved ones easier.
Disasters often mean clogged phone lines, and not being able to get in contact with family or authorities can be terrifying. If you have Zello on your phone, you can avoid the telephone traffic jam by turning your smartphone into a walkie-talkie that relies on cellular data instead.
One of the biggest hurdles to calling 911 can be giving your location, especially in a natural disaster where visible landmarks may be unrecognizable. SirenGPS eliminates that concern by calling 911 for you and automatically providing your GPS coordinates.
The one restriction affecting SirenGPS is that not all communities use it, and the SirenGPS website doesn’t have a list of those that do. Using SirenGPS outside of a participating community won’t provide them with your location, but the app is still capable of dialing 911 at the touch of a button, making it handy for anyone.
Rising to prominence when gas prices were sky high, GasBuddy has hung around and is still very useful for finding cheap gas prices, and in disasters for finding gas stations that aren’t out of gas, have short lines, and are still open.
GasBuddy crowdsources all of its data, and if a driver reports a station is closed or empty you can avoid a stop that could put your life at risk.
It might sound weird to put Snapchat on a list of survival apps, but it’s not as strange as you might think given one particularly useful feature: Its map.
The Snapchat map shows what people are posting and from where, which can be a big help during a natural disaster. Friends you’ve added through the app can be seen even more precisely, so you’ll know if a loved one is safe, or perhaps still heading toward higher ground.
tWhen lines are crowded and towers are out of commission, it can be hard to find a strong enough signal to call for help.
tOpenSignal can help you find the right place to make a call by showing nearby towers and local network usage, and it can even point the way to a better signal. Don’t leave this one off your device if you’re worried about being in an area with spotty coverage.
- Power checklist: Building your disaster recovery plan (Tech Pro Research)
- Severe weather and emergency policy (Tech Pro Research)
- Shelter-in-place emergency policy (Tech Pro Research)
- Preparing for Hurricane Florence: Storm trackers and other survival tools (ZDNet)
- Best apps to track Hurricane Florence and to help during the storm (Download.com)
- 6 must-have tech items for your emergency survival kit (TechRepublic)
- How to prepare your data center for natural disasters (TechRepublic)