When disaster strikes, you'll fare better if you've stocked 72 hours' worth of water and nonperishable food, a battery-powered radio, flashlight, first-aid kit, extra batteries, whistle, moist towelettes, a wrench or pliers, a manual can opener, local maps, a cell phone with chargers, and a backup battery. But what's on your mobile phone may be just as valuable. You can pull up Google's Public Alerts to start, and then check out our top 17 apps to help you before, during, and after the next emergency -- whether it's a hurricane, earthquake, wildfire, or flooding. Many of them work online and off!
What to do before an emergency
1. Hurricane Hound
As its name implies, Hurricane Hound (Android) enables you to track active hurricanes using US radar and weather satellite data.
2. Weather Underground
3. Natural Disaster Monitor
Easily monitor tropical cyclones, tsunamis, floods, and more as color-coded icons, differentiated by threat level, in a list or Google Maps backdrop with Natural Disaster Monitor (Android).
4. MyRadar Weather Radar
MyRadar Weather Radar (Android, iOS) provides users with timely and accurate data on approaching storms, courtesy of high-res animated weather radars and 11 different overlay graphics, including a current satellite image of cloud cover. You can also enable severe weather watches and warnings via push notifications to be alerted about impending thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tornados.
5. First Aid: American Red Cross
Get invaluable, life-saving tips and instructions to help you and others survive everyday emergencies and natural disasters -- such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes -- with the First Aid: American Red Cross ( Android, iOS) app. American Red Cross also has a slew of apps to help you during specific disasters, including Tornado (Android, iOS), Flood (Android, iOS), and Hurricane (Android, iOS).
6. Disaster Alert
7. Ice Medical Standard
ICE Medical Standard (Android, iOS) puts your vital health info and emergency medical contacts on your lock screen, so first responders can see it all immediately, whether you're dazed, confused, or unconscious.
What to do during an emergency
Dialing 911 from a mobile phone doesn't bring instant aid, because dispatchers need some location info to find you. SirenGPS (Android, iOS) puts them at the touch of one big red button. If your community subscribes to Siren 911, nearby first responders will receive your location and profile (emergency contacts, medical history, allergies, and current medications, which you input into the app), improving your chance of being rescued in time.
9. Trusted Contacts
Just add your loved ones and allow them to request your location in Trusted Contacts (Android, iOS). You can share your whereabouts proactively or when requested. If you're unable to respond to requests, then your last known location is shared automatically, even if you're offline or out of battery.
10. Zello Walkie Talkie
Zello Walkie Talkie (Android, iOS) may have made the news and topped the App Store during recent hurricanes when word spread that volunteers were using it to coordinate rescue efforts. But the push-to-talk wide-range communication app is useful in more temperate times as well.
11. LifeLine Response
For a subscription fee of $4.99 per month to LifeLine Response (Android, iOS), you'll get a more immediate emergency response (based on GPS information and cell towers triangulation) than if you called 911 and had to explain where you were.
For a $2.99 per month subscription fee, you'll get emergency help with the press and release of a button in the Noonlight (Android, iOS) app. With Noonlight's latest update, for $9.99 per month, riders and drivers of cars, bikes, and scooters will also get automatic crash detection and response. Just activate the Noonlight app on your smartphone, and you are covered. Noonlight will soon launch a driver score feature to give users feedback on their driving safety.
13. Pet First Aid
Animals are people, too, especially cats and dogs. So get first-aid steps for over 25 common pet situations via text, video, and images, or locate your nearest emergency vet hospital in the Pet First Aid (Android, iOS) app.
14. Emergency: Alerts
15. Find My Family, Friends & Phone
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What to do after an emergency
Facebook (Android, iOS) may be a source for fake news, but it's also a great way to notify you that your loved ones are safe, courtesy of the Safety Check feature. So make sure to mark yourself as safe as soon as you are.
You've survived the disaster, but now what? The FEMA (Android, iOS) app, developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, ensures that you find local relief centers to access key services, shelter, and more.
ReUnite ( Android, iOS) is one of the most valuable apps around if you're separated from your loved ones during a natural disaster. To report a lost or found person, just upload their photo and information.
- Facebook Lite adds Community Help tools for disaster and crisis response
- AccuWeather app adds activity suggestions based on the weather and your location
- Dark Sky weather app gets a big redesign to help you visualize the day's forecast
- Hurricanes: The best ways to get alerts on your phone (CNET)
- Hurricane Florence: Get your tech ready for the coming storm (ZDNet)
- Why IBM is offering $200K to developers to create tech solutions for natural disaster relief (TechRepublic)