Say you live in a disaster-prone area, such as the coastline, the Midwest, the South or, well, pretty much anywhere … you see where this is going. You should already have a disaster-preparedness kit, but your best friend during a crisis might be your smartphone. Needless to say, you shouldn’t count on cellular or Wi-Fi service, or power to charge your batteries, during a disaster. But even a partially charged phone can show you how to do CPR, act as a flashlight, or give you access to your insurance documents.
|Get Your Go-Bag Ready|
|If you don’t have a go-bag, make one now. Be sure to buy a handful of cheap, disposable backup batteries for mobile devices and throw them in your bag. Check out Ready.gov for what else an emergency kit should contain. Keep it packed and ready.|
Here are a dozen apps to help you before, during and after the next disaster.
StopDisaster iPhone $1.99
Knowing what to do in a disaster — good. Knowing how to prepare for one — priceless. Well, $1.99. That’s what you’ll pay for StopDisaster, an iPhone app that walks you through preparedness checklists for hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards and other disasters. It’ll help you build an emergency kit, get your documents in order, and store your emergency phone numbers, ready to dial.
For Android users, there’s a similar app called Disaster Readiness that costs $1.29.
Dropbox Android and iPhone Free
We know you intend to grab your laptop when the earth shakes, but what if you can’t? If you have copies of your most important files stored in a Dropbox account, you can access them even if your computer doesn’t make it out. So what is Dropbox? Essentially, it’s cloud storage. Install the program on your PC or Mac, upload files to your folder, and they are instantly available on all your other computers. And with the app, everything can be found on your mobile devices as well. Don’t have network access? Don’t worry. If you starred your important files, you can still get them on your phone.
These apps turn your phones into flashlights. As smartphone cameras add LED flashbulbs, these apps are getting more powerful. If you are caught in a disaster and the power goes out, a flashlight app can be invaluable. No more rummaging around for a flashlight in those first confusing moments.
Hurricane Tracker iPhone $1.99
When a hurricane is approaching, you don’t want a storm-tracker map from three hours ago; you want the latest official maps, data and projections. This hurricane-tracking app is for serious weather junkies and people who want to be better-informed as they make decisions.
For Android, try the free Hurricane Software app.
Life360 Android and iPhone Free
Everyone can agree on the top priority in a disaster: finding your family. These days, most of your family members probably carry a personal tracking device in the form of their smartphone. Life360 will show you where they are — right now — on a map. The family GPS tracking system can help you find your loved ones anywhere, get safety alerts to them, or call for help with the tap of a button. It also provides neighborhood safety monitoring.
In a crisis, social media turn from gossip lines to, well, possibly lifesaving gossip lines. Whether your friends and family are OK or facing trouble, they’ll likely be posting about it on Facebook and Twitter. Plus, you’ll know what area businesses are open after the storm.
5-0 Radio Police Scanner Lite iPhone Free
During a disaster, everyone hears rumors. What’s really going on? The answer might be found on police band radio, which you can pick up using a free app on your phone. This isn’t talk radio; it’s an unfiltered feed of cops, firefighters and other public-safety officers. We wouldn’t recommend relying on it as your only news source, but it’s worth listening in.
Android users, try the free Scanner Radio app.
MotionX GPS Drive iPhone 99 cents
If you have an iPhone, MotionX GPS Drive is the cheapest and most popular way to guide you out of town on an unfamiliar route. The software even will work without a cellular signal, if you plan ahead and download and cache maps.
For help with your local traffic and commutes, Android and iPhone users might consider the Waze app, too. This app provides free navigation and connects you to your local driving community.
GasBuddy Android and iPhone Free
Gas prices may be high, but they’re not likely to vary by a dollar or more among stations. That changes in a crisis. GasBuddy uses your GPS to display up-to-the-minute gas prices near you, so you can avoid price gouging.
Hands-Only CPR Android and iPhone Free
For an adult victim of cardiac arrest, the American Heart Association now recommends hands-only CPR. No more mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. But you still have to do it right. The official Hands-Only CPR app walks you through the two-step checklist: Call 911, start chest compressions. There’s a (brief) video showing you how to restart that heart.
For $1.99, AHA’s Pocket First Aid & CPR includes the same CPR info along with first aid advice for all sorts of situations.
American Red Cross: Shelter View iPhone Free
When a hurricane or earthquake drives people from their homes, the American Red Cross steps in to provide shelter. That’s great as long as you know where the shelter is. American Red Cross: Shelter View shows you where to go.
Currently, this app is not available for Android, but you can still go online to search for a Red Cross shelter.
USAA iPhone, Android Free
When misfortune strikes, quick access to your insurance carrier is critical. With the USAA Mobile App for the iPhone, Android and iPad, your information is at your fingertips. Use the USAA Mobile App to report or view the status of an auto or property claim, submit photos, schedule an appraisal through one of USAA’s approved repair shops, or reserve a rental vehicle.