Smartphones are humanity’s wünder-multi-tool. These tiny gadgets can contain a universe of information and a forum of applications – no wonder so many people walk around looking like their smartphones are surgically attached to their palms. When disaster hits, your smartphone can even take on extra importance as a survival tool. And we’re not just talking about the built-in LED flashlight on many smartphone models. With the right apps, you can prepare for and respond to any emergency more effectively.
FEMA recently released a thorough disaster smartphone app without flashy visuals – a good combination for post-disaster usability. The FEMA app is organized into several tabs:
“Are you a disaster survivor?” This tab includes maps of disaster centers and shelters, as well as information on how to apply for FEMA assistance. There’s also a link to the FEMA blog, which is chock-full of disaster-related information, such as how to help pets during disasters. Survivors can also find coping strategies here.
“Are you prepared?” Under this tab, you’ll find an emergency kit checklist as well as a place to store reminders of your family’s meeting places. The emergency checklist suggests packing a flashlight with extra batteries, among many other things. We recommend bringing an LED flashlight (the bulb will last longer) as well as a multi-tool, which will come in handy in many unexpected ways.
“Get involved.” Those who would like to help disaster survivors can find information on how to donate gifts of time and money under this tab.
The app does require internet access for the map feature, but other elements will run regardless of web access. Available for Android, iOS and BlackBerry smartphones, the FEMA app is a free download.
Other smartphone apps that can be helpful in a disaster include the Winter Survival Kit, which has a list of things to do if you get stranded in your car during a snowstorm. The application includes an easy-to-find “I’m Stranded” button, which immediately brings up your location and emergency services contact information. For first responders, the free Relief Central app is a field manual that also collects a feed of news from FEMA, the Red Cross, the CDC and other groups.
Remember, all the apps in the world won’t do you much good if your smartphone is dead. Therefore, we recommend making sure you have a car charger. That way you’ll be able to charge your phone even if your home’s energy supply is out for a while. Alternatively, you can buy a solar smartphone charger.