Emer­gency Apps

En­hance Your Mo­bile De­vice’s Ca­pa­bil­i­ties for Dire Sit­u­a­tions

RECOIL OFFGRID - - Contents - By Richard Duarte

En­hance Your Mo­bile De­vice’s Ca­pa­bil­i­ties for Dire Sit­u­a­tions

In 2017, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters set many records around the globe. With mon­strous wild­fires, killer earth­quakes, and su­per-strength hur­ri­canes and floods, 2017 will also be re­mem­bered as one of the dead­li­est and most ex­pen­sive years in re­cent his­tory.

But the wide­spread dev­as­ta­tion also high­lighted the need for more ef­fec­tive and timely com­mu­ni­ca­tions — be­fore, dur­ing, and af­ter a dis­as­ter. This in­cludes not only ex­plor­ing more ef­fi­cient ways of iden­ti­fy­ing vic­tims and al­lo­cat­ing re­lief ef­forts, but also pro­vid­ing the av­er­age per­son with ac­cess to life­sav­ing re­sources and com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

When things go side­ways, ob­tain­ing ac­cu­rate and timely in­for­ma­tion, or get­ting word from fam­ily and friends, can be dif­fi­cult, if not im­pos­si­ble. But stay­ing con­nected is a cru­cial part of sur­viv­ing a nat­u­ral or man­made cri­sis. En­ter mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tions.

In this ar­ti­cle, we re­view 10 mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tions that could po­ten­tially help you pre­pare for, and sur­vive, a cri­sis or other pub­lic emer­gency.

Smart De­vices and Mo­bile Apps

Smart de­vices have be­come an es­sen­tial tool in ev­ery­day life. Mo­bile tech­nol­ogy, so­cial me­dia, and apps have also started to play an in­creas­ing role in emer­gency/res­cue ef­forts as tools for get­ting in­for­ma­tion to and from peo­ple in af­fected ar­eas. Nor­mally, these de­vices pro­vide us with dig­i­tal con­nec­tiv­ity and round-the-clock ac­cess to a va­ri­ety of in­for­ma­tion sources from around the globe. When a dis­as­ter strikes, how­ever, our ac­cess to re­li­able com­mu­ni­ca­tions and up-to-date in­for­ma­tion are usu­ally among the first things to take a hit. Iron­i­cally, it’s usu­ally dur­ing those dif­fi­cult mo­ments that our need to stay con­nected is even greater — from con­tact­ing oth­ers to send­ing out an ur­gent call for res­cue.

The apps we con­sid­ered for in­clu­sion in this re­view all pro­vide ac­cess to re­sources. They’re not nec­es­sar­ily “dis­as­ter” apps, but rather apps that could be use­ful be­fore, dur­ing, and af­ter a real-world cri­sis. For prac­ti­cal

rea­sons we had to limit the re­view to 10 apps, but there were cer­tainly many more that we could’ve in­cluded.

What to Look For

In the 10 apps we re­viewed, we sought to pro­vide a prac­ti­cal mix. Each per­son’s sit­u­a­tion is, of course, dif­fer­ent, and the apps you choose should re­flect your spe­cific needs and cir­cum­stances. The fol­low­ing are some fac­tors you may want to con­sider:

Ease of Use and Re­li­a­bil­ity: We looked for apps that were easy to down­load, set up, and use. We also pre­fer a clean lay­out, with easy-to-iden­tify links, but­tons, and fonts that are big enough for the av­er­age per­son to see clearly. If the app falls short in any of these ar­eas, you’ll likely get frus­trated, no mat­ter how good the ac­tual con­tent may be. For many peo­ple, re­li­a­bil­ity is a must, es­pe­cially dur­ing a cri­sis. Over­all, the best apps are use­ful, fast, con­ve­nient, easy to use, con­sis­tent, and re­li­able.

Nav­i­ga­tion and De­sign: Think of this as the lay­out of the var­i­ous el­e­ments and func­tions and how easy and in­tu­itive it is to nav­i­gate through­out the app. Im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion should be con­ve­niently placed. The user should no­tice that every­thing flows well. Get­ting around should be in­tu­itive and easy, and you should be able to do so quickly, too. Func­tions that are slow and clumsy won’t get used; it’s that sim­ple.

Cost: Many apps are free, and that’s great. But be care­ful; some of those “free” apps come at the cost of hav­ing to en­dure some very an­noy­ing ads. On the other hand, some folks don’t mind pay­ing a few bucks for a great app to avoid see­ing a bunch of ads. All the apps on our list are free, although some of­fer up­grades for a fee, or an op­tion to pay to avoid see­ing ads.

No Cell Ser­vice Needed: Smart de­vices have be­come the mul­ti­tool of our age. There are lit­er­ally hun­dreds of func­tions that can be per­formed on these de­vices. But while many func­tions don’t re­quire con­nec­tiv­ity, the ma­jor­ity re­quire cell ser­vice or a Wi-Fi con­nec­tion.

Many of the apps we re­viewed come with pre-loaded con­tent avail­able to the user even with­out con­nec­tiv­ity. This is im­por­tant if you’ll be re­ly­ing on that con­tent in the af­ter­math of a dis­as­ter when cell ser­vice and/or in­ter­net ser­vice may be down.

What We Found

With these tips in mind, we took a look at 10 pop­u­lar apps and put them to the test. While we couldn’t an­tic­i­pate the real-world con­di­tions that the apps might be sub­jected to, we looked at each through the lens of how they could be used be­fore, dur­ing, and in the af­ter­math of a cri­sis. We also eval­u­ated each for daily use and how they could be used in the ab­sence of cell or In­ter­net ser­vice. Here’s how they stacked up.

Wrap Up

Emer­gen­cies come in all shapes and sizes, and get­ting ac­cu­rate, up-to-date in­for­ma­tion or com­mu­ni­cat­ing with oth­ers in the mid­dle of a cri­sis or pub­lic emer­gency can be a huge chal­lenge. But with to­day’s mo­bile tech­nol­ogy and the right apps, you can pro­vide your­self with a ma­jor ad­van­tage. Whether you live in the moun­tains or along the coast, there are apps that can not only pro­vide timely and ac­cu­rate emer­gency in­for­ma­tion, but can help you send out a dis­tress sig­nal, trans­mit your lo­ca­tion in an emer­gency, or con­tact friends and fam­ily mem­bers.

WARN­ING: The ma­te­ri­als pro­vided are for illustration and/or in­for­ma­tional pur­poses only. Any use of the in­for­ma­tion con­tained in this ar­ti­cle shall be solely at the reader’s risk.


Your phone can do much more than just call peo­ple when ser­vice may be jammed. Some of these apps we re­viewed here will func­tion with­outcon­nec­tiv­ity.

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