(Ed. note: Social media, and especially social apps on your phone, have become a necessity in the prepper’s ‘bag of tricks,’ so I welcome this guest post from Beth on some of the apps worth considering.)
A mobile phone is your lifeline: to the people you love, the places you visit, and the daily services you depend on. Increasingly intelligent smartphones even grant access to Internet search, serving as a portal to the digital realm and a mediator within the ever-widening “Internet of Things.”
This is our totally-connected era. But in the interest of preparedness, there are even more practical and potentially life-saving ways to put your smart technology to use. Turn your smartphone into a powerful prepper tool by downloading apps that let you track the weather, stay as up to date as possible regarding emergencies, and maintain an eye over your home and family no matter where you are. In observance of September’s National Preparedness Month, here are seven essential safety apps that can connect you to life-saving services anytime you need them.
FirstAid by American Red Cross
The biggest name in safety, the American Red Cross offers a host of digital preparedness resources for individuals, one of which being their FirstAid app. This app grants access to videos and instructional information covering how to handle the most common emergencies. Plus, you can dial 9-1-1 at any time, making it a critical tool during a crisis. It’s available to iOS and Android users for free.
Show Me for Emergencies
During a crisis, emergency workers can get inundated with pleas for help from distressed individuals, and communication can become a problem. If you struggle to communicate in some way – or might during a disaster – then download the Show Me for Emergencies app. Designed as part of a suite of tools developed by the Massachusetts government, Show Me for Emergencies lets you communicate with emergency workers and public safety officials by choosing easily identifiable icons. It’s perfect for people with disabilities or those who speak limited English, and it’s available for free on iOS or Android devices.
During a home invasion or assault you may not have time to pull up your phone’s camera and take a quick shot of your attacker – but that’s exactly what the SafeSnapp app allows you to do. In a matter of seconds and with one push of a button, the app snaps three photos of your assailant, captures the GPS of your location, and uploads this and other critical data to your email and a contact email. Originally developed for the iPhone, SafeSnapp is now available on both iOS and Android devices for $9.99.
If you’ve ever worried about knowing where your family is at any time, then Life360 is right for you. Combining location services and communication technology, the app lets you connect with a specified “circles” of people. Within those circles, you can plot the location of those you love, send group or individual messages, and get notifications about when your family or friends arrive safely to their destinations. This is a powerful tool for people with kids or dependents who need more eagle-eyed supervision. Best of all, the Life360 app is available for free on Android and iOS.
Total security automation might sound like something out of a sci-fi novel, but it’s here in a big way with apps and security suites like Vivint Sky. From home technology experts at Vivint, the app lets you remotely control all of your home tech with the touch of a few buttons on your phone. You can activate intruder alarms, monitor your space, and set timers for lights and temperature, among other features. The Vivint Sky app itself is free for iOS and Android users, but the app connects to various “smart” home devices with a monthly subscription fee.
If you’re able to maintain an Internet connection during a crisis, this handy app will allow you to tune in and listen to the radio broadcasts of more than 5,000 emergency police and fire services. Eavesdropping on their radio chatter, as well as news from weather radio broadcasts and amateur radio repeaters all over the country (also included in the free Scanner Radio app) can offer indispensable clues to what’s going on during disasters of any size or cause. A paid version will open additional features, like ad-free listening and broadcast recording.
Preparing for the next natural disaster means more than just stocking the pantry with non-perishables. To truly be “in the know” you’re going to want to understand the next wave of disease and biohazard threats. That’s where the MMWR Express app comes in. Created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MMWR Express – which stands for Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report – has been called the “voice of the CDC.” The app grants access to the CDC’s weekly roundup of relevant and timely public health publications. It’s available for free download for Android and iOS users.
If you live in a close-knit community or neighborhood but want to feel more connected to your individual neighbors, the Nextdoor app could be for you. The app is a free private social network for your neighborhood and it is the best way to stay connected with each other and with what is going on in your community. Stay in the know about street cleaning, block parties and crime within your immediate surroundings and report any of the above that you’re aware of. More recently, during Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, neighborhoods turned to the Nextdoor app in order to keep connected and to ensure the safety of others. This app is available for free for both Android and iOS users.
Each of these apps can make a strong addition to your survival gear. Keep your family and your home protected using a tool you already keep in your pocket – your trusty mobile phone.
Beth Kotz is a freelance writer and contributor for numerous home, technology, and personal finance blogs. She graduated with BA in Communications and Media from DePaul University in Chicago, IL, where she continues to live and work.