Emergency preparation is a must, but you shouldn’t let worries over natural disasters or worst-case scenarios encroach on the precious time spent with family and friends. With a little bit of preparation now, you can dedicate your time to what matters most to you, rather than obsess over the hypotheticals.
Here are 9 apps to help you safeguard your family, home and prized possessions and prepare for many of the emergencies life might throw at you.
Call it emergency preparedness 2.0:
Before Disaster Strikes
This is one of the most trusted weather prediction apps for your phone. In addition to the usual hourly, daily and extended forecasts, it boasts the most up-to-date and accurate severe weather warnings for a given area, based on GPS.
WeatherBug includes live Doppler radar and real-time traffic conditions as well. Planning to spend time on the water or at the park? Try out the app’s Spark feature, a lightning proximity alert that can tell you when it’s time to run inside.
Losing precious possessions in a weather disaster is never pleasant, but this home inventory app will make it much easier to replace lost or ruined items and to file an insurance claim. Of course, you’ll need to catalog what you own before the disaster strikes.
The easy interface will walk you through the rooms of your home and prompt you to take pictures of your possessions, receipts, serial numbers and important documents (e.g., passports and wills). An hour spent walking through your home with this app could save you from months of headaches later.
Keep yourself and your family safe with this outbreak alert app. Created by a team of researchers, epidemiologists and software developers at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, this app will let you know whether there is an outbreak in your area.
Given new threats (like the Zika virus) and those in the not-so-distant past (like Ebola), you’ll want this app’s warnings about potential health threats, culled from various sources including reports from real people, online news, expert outlooks and validated reports from official outlets. Rather than just fear-mongering, the app also provides suggestions for ways to keep your family healthy.
This app is helpful for any sort of emergency, whether a natural disaster or something “manmade,” such as an accident or a crime. Originally designed with hikers, cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts in mind, it lets you set a timer that will trigger an email or text to your emergency contacts if you don’t check in by a designated time.
This could be helpful whether you are out for an early-morning run, are planning a late night out or have to split up from your family during an emergency. Just remember to check in if everything is okay! You don’t want to cause undue worry for your loved ones.
Note that Bugle is only available on Apple devices. If you don’t have an iPhone, check out HikerAlert.com for a similar option.
During an Emergency
This app places critical information, such as your allergies, medical conditions, emergency contacts and more on the lock screen of your phone to instruct others how on best to help you if you’re in trouble. You can even include a photo of yourself so that any first responders who are helping you can be sure that they’re using the correct information to treat the person in front of them.
If you don’t feel like installing another app, just follow ICE’s short tutorial for displaying this information through your phone’s built-in settings.
The Red Cross’s First Aid app comes with interactive advice on how to handle first aid in a number of medical situations ranging from anaphylactic shock to a broken bone, and disasters ranging from earthquakes to chemical emergencies.
It comes preloaded with content, which means that you don’t need a Wi-Fi or 4G connection to access the first aid information. This could be especially helpful if the power or phone lines go down. The app is also fully integrated with 9-1-1 service, so professional help can be on its way at the push of a button.
The Red Cross makes many other helpful apps, too, including one for pet first aid, one to schedule and track blood donations, and multiple apps to track earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornados or wildfires.
If you’re concerned that you or someone you know has ingested a poisonous substance, this app can help you decide whether you can provide a home remedy or need to get to the doctor ASAP. You simply input the person’s age, height, weight and when they ingested the questionable substance.
FEMA’s app can keep you up-to-date on developments during a disaster situation and allow you to access maps and directions to shelters and disaster recovery centers. You can create and share custom lists, such as the items you’ve saved in your emergency kit and family meet-up locations.
You can even use the app to help first responders know what’s going on by contributing to the organization’s Disaster Reporter, a crowd-sourced repository of disaster-related photos charted on a map. In the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, you can use the app to apply for assistance from the government, as well.
After disaster strikes, it’ll be important to document any and all damage for insurance claims or possible government reimbursement. This app will help you take pictures and save them alongside your own voice recordings as you describe the damage you observe. A recent update allows you to compress and save all of your documentation in an Excel file for easy transfer.
Some emergencies call for resources and tools that simple phone apps can’t provide. Luckily, there are a number of technological solutions that can help you brave whatever life throws at you, from keeping your electronics charged to making sure you have clean water to drink.
Options for Battery Power
Apps offer great information and access to resources—not to mention the ability to communicate with your loved ones and emergency workers—but a dead phone battery renders that moot. Remember that it can sometimes take days or even weeks for electricity to be restored following a serious natural disaster.
You can prepare for a prolonged period without the ability to recharge your phone by including extra charged batteries for your phone (and other electronics) in your emergency kit. It’s also a good idea to invest in a portable charging station. Some versions can be supplemented with solar power. For a serious solar solution to power a small encampment, you might look into purchasing a solar generator.
Options for Clean Water
Last year during Hurricane Joaquin, there were boil-water advisories in areas throughout South Carolina for days after the emergency status of the storm had subsided.
It can be very time-consuming to boil water and wait for it to cool, so consider looking into a portable water filter or purifier to ensure that you and your family always have safe drinking water. There are pros and cons for various water purifiers and filtration methods, but if you want something cheap, easy and immediate, you might try a “straw” filter, which uses the force caused by sucking through a straw to filter the water.
If you’d like to prep more water at a time and are willing to wait a little while for chemicals to do the work for you, you can try purifying tablets. And if you want a portable tool to decontaminate bacteria, protozoa and viruses, you might try a UV generator such as the SteriPEN. (Most filters don’t work on viruses, but that’s generally not a problem unless you’re traveling outside of North America.)
No one enjoys thinking about emergencies, but gathering the proper information and tools now means that you can enjoy the important things without having to worry about life’s what-ifs.