Top Apps to Help You & Your Family Stay Safe and Prepared
In today's post, we are going to look at my top 10 apps for emergency preparedness. These could be incredibly helpful and even save someone's life in the event of an emergency or disaster.
The best part about these is they are simple to get and use (you can do it today), and they are FREE, (assuming you have a smartphone). Let's look at the role phone apps can play for your safety and well being in a changing and unpredictable world.
Although hopefully assumed, remember that some of the features of these apps may rely on a WiFi or cell signal. Depending on the disaster this may or may not be available. Some of the apps still have lots of useful information that would be stored on your device, thus still accessible.
Also, if you have other favorite apps you use related to this topic, please share in the comments below or over on our Facebook Group.
As a lifelong student of the Martial Arts, there is a quote I have heard many Sensei's and instructors say over the years:
"The best way 2 win a #fight is not 2 be there when it starts." Apply this 2 #Disasters as well"
The more in-depth my training journey goes, the more I appreciate the wisdom in this statement and how transferable the lessons and metaphors of martial arts are too so many other aspects of life. I have been asked by many friends and students before, "If a major disaster strikes a city, what is the best way to get out?". My answer is similar, "to leave before it strikes."
Whether you are dealing with a first aid emergency, a natural disaster or human-induced threat, having an early warning and quick access to pertinent information can be game changers and lifesavers in how you choose to respond.
We can access so much useful information through our smartphones. There are a lot of great apps that could be useful in an emergency; I encourage you to do some research based on your unique needs and situation. Here are a few of the top apps I use and why I think they are so useful.
**Please note I have no affiliation with any of the apps I have listed nor can I 100% guarantee the impact that downloading and using them may have on your phone or how it may impact any incident you may use them in. They are all apps I have installed and use. Like with anything, do your research and use at your own discretion.
Top 10 Apps
** Not listed in order of importance.
Emergency/Disaster Alert Apps
Like in the martial arts quote, early alerts may allow you to act before an incident effects your region or at the very onset of an event. These first four apps in some scenarios may inform you of a significant event before local alert systems go out or the news begins to report them. In most emergencies time is of the essence and the quicker we can respond, the better off we are. Here are three I like and use:
It has checklists and instructions of what to do in the event of many different emergency scenarios. This component would work even if you did not have a cell signal.
This app is put out by the Pacific Disaster Center. There is a paid and a free version. One of my favorite components of this app is the world map using different icons to show all the current disaster alerts around the globe.
I find this app fascinating to skim from time to time.It shows everything from floods, to pandemic outbreaks to volcano eruptions & more. This app lists events from around the world. To get alerts specific to your area you need to upgrade to the paid version. I have and found it well worth the $12, or so.
This app scans and reports on data from Seismological & Geoscience agencies and research centers around the world. I have found to be incredibly quick in giving out its alerts and warnings. Another great feature of this app is that reports on Tsunami warnings around the world from the NOAA's National Weather Service, the National Tsunami Warning Centre & The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
Now if you live in an area affected by an earthquake, getting an alert right after it occurs may not be super useful outside of being able to see the magnitude and epicenter. But, If you live on the ocean, minutes are of the essence under a tsunami warning.
I have a few family members that live on the west coast of Canada. If an earthquake occurred off shore, they might not even feel it, but it could trigger a tsunami that would affect them. Twice now I have contacted a family member about a tsunami advisory before local alert and radio stations even reported it due to this app.
4) FEMA & Other Disaster Specific Apps
I do not personally use the FEMA app as I feel pretty covered with the three I listed already and I live in Canada. I know a lot of people recommend it though, especially if you live in the United States. FEMA does have specific apps for floods, hurricanes, tornado's, etc. These would likely be very useful in a related event.
If I lived in an area prone to hurricanes or tornado's, I would likely look into getting one of the more specific apps for these events. There are lots of Hazard particular apps other than the FEMA ones as well.
General Weather Monitoring
Whether wanting to plan a weekend outdoors, track an incoming weather system, or better understand what you are in for in the days following a disaster, being able to monitor the weather accurately is incredibly useful.
I recommend everyone learn to not rely 100% on technology for this. Through observation of the clouds, humidity, winds, insects, trees, and birds are how people have monitored and predicted the weather for thousands of years. To this day I find mother natures early warning signs still more accurate than the local forecast. I will leave this is a topic for another post though.
Here are my two favorite weather apps, I am sure there are lots of other great ones out there as well.
This app uses NOAA data and has fantastic real-time maps showing wind and ocean currents around the world.
It allows you to monitor incoming weather systems as well as indicates global land and water temperatures and more. I also recommend this app for learning how the wind currents and weather systems move in your area and around the globe!
It does collect information for third-party services, I suspect advertising, so it is always good to read the terms and services. Unfortunately, most apps do this these days, and if you are on Facebook you are sharing your every movement with the world already!
This app is created by an interesting weather monitoring and predicting organization called Weather Underground.
I recommend checking out there website as well at http://www.wunderground.com. They have a plethora of great information, radar, storm advisories, photo's videos and an awesome weather blog. on Storm comes with radar monitoring of weather systems, alerts, and I often find their local weather predictions more accurate than Environment Canada and The Weather Network.
First Aid & Medical Emergencies
The Red Cross first aid app is excellent for covering the basics in an easy to use fashion.
There is a Canadian and an American version. There may be versions for other countries as well. Just have a look in the app store.
They list by ailments, for example, asthma attack, broken bones, burns, etc., and include the steps for first response. The downside to the app is that for any more severe emergencies they just advise going to a hospital. Although this is responsible and good advice, it does not give you anything else to work with if going to a hospital is not an option. Thus I advise having this alongside a more advanced diagnosis app.
This app is a MUST HAVE on my list. I use the WebMD website all the time on my computer and multiple times when I have been in the emergency room (for myself or others) I have used it to learn about a diagnosis, procedure or medication.
What WebMD provides, that the Red Cross app is missing, it the ability to diagnosis more complex medical issues based on symptoms. The app also advises on what medical treatment steps are advised and when to see a doctor. The app also has an excellent database of medications, what they are used for, their side effects and even a pill identifier feature.
Emergency & Family Communications
During an emergency, traditional communication systems are often one of the first things to fail. Imagine being in a disaster zone and not knowing if a family member on the other side of town is OK or not?
Consider having an app for family communications as well as an app that allows you get information from emergency services and the government as to what you can expect next. Many apps scan and pick up on local EMS radio channels; this could be beneficial information in gauging the scope and timeline of an emergency/disaster situation. I have have not found one I like yet and will add one when I do.
If you can recommend other communications apps, please share them in the contacts. In the meantime, this is a useful one.
Zello was one of the most downloaded apps in America during Hurricane Harvey. It is a “walkie-talkie” app for Smartphones & Androids. Zello allows you to communicate with a pre-programmed network of friends, family, or local emergency stations. You can transmit short blasts of information out to your network of friends & family using very little bandwidth.
Now keep in mind that it requires a WIFI signal which may not be available in many situations. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, many cell towers were still operational, and thus Zello worked. Remember phone calls use a lot of bandwidth and local phone signal often jam during emergencies. An app such as this may allow you to get essential communications through about where you are, how you are doing, where you are heading, etc. It also records conversations so you can go back and double check what your family members said t a later time.
When heading overseas, people tend to focus their attention on the logistics of the travel and what they will need to enjoy their vacation or be used on a work trip. Imagine being in another country and a major earthquake hitting. Electricity is down; roads are damaged, what do you do? Putting a little thought into emergency preparedness before your trip is fairly easy and could go along ways. Here is a great app to help with your plans.
The Global Affairs Canada created this app. Don't let that hold you back from downloading it if you live elsewhere.
This app provides essential preparedness and emergency information about countries all over the world. A few highlights include locations of local emergency contacts and embassies, 24-5 alerts, estimated wait times at border, historical data on storm seasons and natural disasters, transmittable diseases and outbreaks, higher risk areas of town for tourists and more.
Important Information & Documents
All kinds of other apps may provide useful information during a disaster or an emergency. You may also have files on your home computer that would be useful to have available if you can not return home. Consider what other information you may need such as a wilderness survival app or personal documents.
One option for storing essential documents you already have is through Dropbox.
This app allows you to access valuable information that you upload to the system through any device connected to the internet and to download documents directly to your device. Consider documents such as insurance papers, copies of identification, plans, policies, procedures, pictures of your home pre-disaster for insurance, photos of loved ones for search and rescue efforts, etc.