Emergency Preparedness: There’s an App for that!

September 26th, 2012

In addition to stocking up on the basic emergency preparedness kit supplies, have you ever considered using your mobile device as a survival tool during an emergency? Since most Americans today have some type of mobile phone or tablet computer, and about 50% of mobile phone users have a smartphone, it is not surprising that applications (apps) and text message programs are now available to aid the public in the event of an emergency. Below are a few of these technological tools that are free to download and easy to use.


The American Red Cross has developed several apps that are extremely useful in the event of an emergency. If you find that you are in desperate need of shelter following a natural disaster other catastrophic event, use the Shelter Finder App to help you locate a shelter nearest to you. You can simply zoom in on a map of your area and it will tell you the name and location of nearby shelters as well as information like capacity, current population, and the agency in charge of the shelter. The shelter locations are updated every 30 minutes with current populations updated twice daily, usually at noon and midnight.

First Aid

If you find yourself in a situation where you or a family member requires immediate medical attention, the First Aid App could be a life-saver. This app provides step-by-step instructions and even videos addressing the most common first aid emergencies like asthma attacks, burns, or head injuries, and can be viewed in either a learning mode or an emergency mode. The app is integrated with 911 so you can call for assistance at any time by simply touching “call 911” when you are in emergency mode. This is a stand-alone app which means that once the content is loaded to your phone, you can access this information even if you do not have reception or an internet connection. This app also includes safety tips to help you prepare for any type of emergency like hurricanes and earthquakes, and has interactive quizzes to help increase your knowledge of first aid and emergency preparedness.


Since it is currently hurricane season, it is crucial to mention the newly released Hurricane App which offers many useful features. This app provides NOAA weather alerts for hurricanes (as well as tropical storms, tornadoes, and floods), locations of Red Cross shelters, and even “I’m safe” messaging that, with one touch of a button, allows users to notify family and friends that they are safe via social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail. To help you before, during, and after a hurricane you can view emergency preparedness steps and checklists. Another potentially life-saving feature is the ability to turn your phone into a flashlight, strobe light, or loud alarm. Like the First Aid App, the Hurricane App has preloaded content to provide you with critical action steps even if you lose reception or internet connection.

Text Message Program

For those individuals who do not own a smartphone or tablet, or those who only wish to receive text messages, FEMA created a text message program where you can receive monthly emergency preparedness tips. You can also find shelters near you by texting “SHELTER” and your zip code, or you can locate nearby Disaster Recovery Centers by texting “DRC” and your zip code.

In this day and age, mobile devices are used for so many purposes that it is only fitting that they can now serve a life-saving role in an emergency. When planning for emergencies, review the articles about emergency preparedness kits and emergency water storage, and be sure to include either the emergency apps or text message programs in your preparations if at all possible.


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