Despite growing technological advances, leaps forward in technology, caution, and medical professions, disasters and crises still happen every day. Whether you are facing hazards from the environment or dangerous people, the most important thing in any disaster is contacting emergency services and loved ones quickly and effectively. The following 16 apps and services are utterly indispensable for those in precarious conditions, including situations of extreme weather, man-made disasters, unsafe situations, and even domestic violence.
Our first disaster and crisis app comes from Robin McGraw, wife of TV personality Dr. Phil. Designed for users who need help out of treacherous domestic abuse situations, this clever app disguises itself as a common mobile app. The front page of the app functions just like a news aggregator, so potentially violent partners don’t suspect a thing. In reality, users need only tap the help section to bring up a page listing local domestic violence resources. Not only that, tapping the top bar three times activates a “Go Button”. Users assign chosen emergency contacts to this panic button, so when pressed contacts are instantly alerted of a violent situation. The app’s creators state that this app is not a replacement for dialing 911, but it may be an effective way to contact supportive people in situations where you are at greater risk by contacting emergency personnel. It’s a good idea to speak to your emergency contacts before hand about the app, so you can ask them to call 911 for you any time you activate the panic button.
Circle of Six is another effective disaster and crisis app. Designed for college students, this app lets users who need help promptly and discreetly contact six predetermined people. Available for both iPhone and Android, the app relies on visual buttons that send instructions to your contacts so others don’t know what you’re doing. Circle of Six lets you tell your contacts a variety of things including if you need a ride home, need an interruption, or are in the potentially dangerous situation. This app is exceptionally helpful for situations where you need help, but does not let users contact emergency services directly.
Another disaster and crisis app for both iPhone and Android is Panic Button. This app allows you to quickly and easily send panic messages via text message, Twitter, Facebook, or even email. This is a spectacular app for getting a hold of friends and family if you are in distress, but also neglects to provide users a direct link to emergency services.
This global disaster and crisis app for iPhone alerts users to active hazards around the world. This app helps users monitor hazards as well as alert users to early warnings for a variety of events. Events you can monitor include hurricanes, tropical storms, droughts, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, floods, storms, wildfires, man-made disasters, as well as National Weather Service alerts in Hawaii. This streamlined, efficient way to see what areas are affected by a disaster also aims to add other hazards in the future. In addition, you can enable push notifications to automatically receive updates for hazards in your area. Such an involved, far-reaching app is supremely helpful for users looking to monitor hazards nearby or near loved ones.
Similarly, Hurricane Tracker alerts users to developing hurricanes throughout the Caribbean, the Atlantic Ocean, the eastern Pacific, as well as the Gulf of Mexico and Hawaii. This app uses original maps and graphics to keep you up-to-date on a storms progression. This is another crisis and disaster app that users can opt for push notifications, to be automatically notified if the storm intensifies or change of course. This app is only available for iOS and costs $2.99. This app presents users with a highly accessible way to track hurricanes, but does not offer information on other types of natural disasters.
Emergency Radio is another disaster and crisis app that stands to be extremely useful during times of hazards or disasters. This award-winning police scanner app allows you to listen to live feeds from police, fire, railroad, air traffic, train, EMS, Coast Guard, as well as NOAA weather information. The app features thousands of live radio streams, with new locations added every day. Currently, the app includes feeds from most United States locations, as well as several locations in Canada and Europe. This app is only for iOS and costs $1.99, but is useful in a variety of disasters.
The federal emergency management agency’s official app is another brilliant safety app. Tailored mainly to the United States, this disaster and crisis app includes information on how to stay safe or recover from disasters, as well as a live map of FEMA disaster recovery shelters. However, this app is also helpful for those outside of the United States because it includes important information on how to prepare for various types of disasters, as well as interactive checklists for emergency kits. An uncommonly broad tool, The FEMA app is sensational for both preparing for and surviving a disaster, and is available for free on iPhone, Android and Blackberry.
The First Aid App from the American Red Cross is another extremely helpful free disaster and crisis app for Apple and Android devices. Mainly geared towards every day emergencies, this app provides interactive videos and step-by-step advice for first aid. Not only that, the app includes interactive quizzes for those looking to learn first aid before disaster strikes. The app also includes safety tips for severe weather, earthquakes, and other emergencies, as well as a simple way to call 911 directly from the app. Most impressively, because the app relies on pre-loaded content, you can access all the features of the app (besides contacting 911) even without signal or Internet connection. This makes the app extremely useful any time you need first aid advice, plus the app includes an easy way to toggle between English and Spanish instructions.
This impressive multitasking disaster and crisis app is helpful for users in all types of situations. Gaurdly let’s you program numbers into different groups, allowing you to contact exactly the group you need in different situations. For example, Gaurdly includes an easy way to contact 911, but also allows you to program in services like campus police or local security. Not only that, this app lets users discreetly contact emergency services via messaging for situations where calling emergency services would put you in jeopardy. Additionally, this app includes a emergency beacon that when activated plays a repeating whistle sound at full volume. Finally, this app integrates impressive collaboration with your emergency contacts. You can configure the app so that contacts closest to you are notified by email, telephone call, and text message should you enlist emergency help through the app. Plus, the app pairs with the Gaurdly online emergency response page, so emergency contacts and response personnel can track where you are. The app also notifies you of where your emergency contacts are located in case you need to find your nearest friend. This heavyweight app brings heaps of practical crisis features to the table and is free for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone.
bSafe is a recent app that also hosts a multitude of useful features. Simply add friend’s contact details to this disaster and crisis app who you need in case of emergency. You can add multiple friends, or just keep it to a few close contacts. You also choose one emergency contact as your primary contact. When this app is open, the screen stays on regardless of your power saving features. Simply hit the alarm button if you are in a dangerous situation. Friends added to the app receive a text message, but your primary contact will receive a text as well as a call. Not only that, this app immediately begins recording video, audio, and broadcasting your location to your emergency contacts when the panic button is pressed. The app also includes two more helpful features. The first is a timer mode, perfect for jogs or quick errands. If you do not shut off the app before the timer goes off, your friends are alerted that you’re in a potentially dangerous situation. Second, bSafe allows you to program a fake call from contacts in your phone. You can set up a call on a timer to get you out of bad or awkward situations. The app also allows you to broadcast your location at any time making meet ups with friends easy, but you can also hide your location if you prefer.
This simple app boils down the most important features for a disaster or crisis app. Created to help prevent sexual assault on college campuses, this app allows you to instantly call 911, call campus police, or call both 911 and your emergency contacts. should you alert emergency responders that you need help, the app instantly shares your GPS location. Additionally, this app lets you broadcast your current location to friends, as well as alert friends when you have safely arrived at your destination. The app is free to install and comes with a 30 day free trial. After your free trial, “Call 911” and “Call Campus Police” features are free and active forever. To also alert your emergency contacts and activate the “Arrived Safe” button, this app requires a $9.99 yearly subscription or a $.99 monthly subscription.
Another impressive personal safety app is my force. Like other safety apps, this app allows you to send an alert anytime you feel unsafe. Unlike other safety apps, myForce connects you to a live security professional who is informed of your location, instead of contacting friends or family. Your phone automatically records and broadcasts audio, video, and GPS information to this security agent. The person on the other end then notifies the appropriate authorities in your area to ensure you receive the help you need. Connecting users in distress to a human with access to your phones GPS data allows you a personalized response to any situation.
Hollaback is a unique app that strives to end street harassment. Users can submit times and locations where they were harassed, as well as upload a photo of the harasser. Though the app does not connect users with emergency services, it does provide users a way to draw attention to potentially chronic harassers, as well as avoid areas where harassment is common. The app is a part of the nonprofit group Hollaback’s efforts to end street harassment through greater awareness, as well as showing others how harmful offhand comments can be.
One incredibly helpful fresh tool for natural disasters is Safety Check, a new feature from Facebook. This new way to communicate with loved ones during major catastrophes activates automatically and does not require any additional downloads. Should a natural disaster strike, you will automatically receive a Facebook notification asking if you are okay. Facebook determines whether you are near a disaster based on the city listed in your profile, where are you are using the Internet from, or your last location if you use nearby location awareness tools. When prompted, you can select the “I’m safe” button to generate a newsfeed story that lets your friends and family know you’re okay. This new feature also includes an option to let others know you are outside the area affected by the disaster. Additionally, should your friends be affected by a disaster, you can click on their safety update to access the Safety Check bookmark and see a list of updates from friends who are safe.
Finally, Kitestring is a free service worth mentioning, despite the fact that it works even if you don’t have a smart phone. Simply provide your phone number and name to the Kitestring website, which generates a unique Kitestring contact address just for you. Add this number to your phone to seamlessly access the safety service from anywhere. To set an alert anytime you are in an unsure situation, send a text with how many minutes later the service should check up on you. Kitestring will then send you a text asking if you’re okay that many minutes later. If you do not respond, Kitestring sends a personalized alert message to your emergency contacts. Not only is this service free, all it requires is an online sign-up so you don’t need to download any additional software.
Featured photo credit: DVIDSHUB via flickr.com