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The information presented on this page was originally released on September 13, 2012. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Smartphone apps can help during a disaster
Many things have changed since Hurricane Katrina hit our beautiful state seven years ago, including how we communicate with one another. Since Katrina, many private companies and federal agencies have developed smartphone apps to help with natural disaster preparations and recovery.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency app allows you to check your family’s emergency supply list, review safety tips, and locate shelters near you. Additionally, you can text the word SHELTER + your zip code to find the nearest shelter. The American Red Cross also has a shelter app for iPhone users that gives shelter locations throughout the country.
Another useful app to have on your phone is the hurricane app from the American Red Cross. This app lets you send a one-touch “I’m Safe” message to family and friends and provides step-by-step instructions on what to do. It also comes with a flashlight, strobe light and alarm.
Most weather channels offer free apps that can be used to track the path of a storm. Be sure to check with your local news station to see if they will provide text or Twitter updates as events unfold.
Some apps, such as the Disaster Caster for iPhone, let you create emergency plans that can then be sent to designated people in your phone’s contact list. This app also can send a link to your emergency contacts that tells them exactly where you are. Other apps, such as the ones available from https://plerts.com/, will send personal alerts. The SOS Emergency Alert for iPhone users is one such app. Once downloaded to your smartphone, it determines where the phone is and can then send out emergency alerts to friends and family.
Another option for Android users is the Life 360 app. It is a free app that lets family members quickly check in with one another during a disaster. This app also comes with a panic button that tells family where the person is located.
First aid may be needed in an emergency situation, and apps like First Aid by the American Red Cross and the Pocket First Aid & CPR app from the American Heart Association provide clear, step-by-step directions.
Following a natural disaster, one of the most important things to do after making sure everyone is safe is documenting damage for insurance purposes. Most insurance companies have mobile apps that can be used to find your agent, start a claim and take photos of damage.
Look for these apps in your smartphone’s app store.
Smartphones can make disaster preparation and recovery easier, but phones are only as good as their last charge. Be sure to charge phones, or keep them on the charger until the electricity goes out. When the battery runs low on the phone, use a solar charger or battery pack re-charger available at most box stores.
This hurricane season, keep your preparations in the palm of your hand.