These apps will help you and your family stay safe…

We all know to keep water, ready-to-eat food and similar basic necessities packed in an emergency supply kit—aka a “go bag”—in case a natural disaster or some other crisis forces us to leave home at a moment’s notice.

But these days, smartphones and other digital devices such as tablets offer several new options to help you and your loved ones stay safe. So-called “disaster apps” (short for “applications”—software programs that can be downloaded to mobile devices) are game changers in the way that people can now find vital information, connect with one another and respond during a disaster.


It’s important to remember that smartphones still need to be charged to operate during a crisis, so it is wise to keep a small cell phone charger with you at all times—inexpensive ones (less than $10) can be found at electronics stores, discount stores and even drugstores.

Good to know: Data demands for text messages are smaller, so texts may go through even if networks are overloaded during a disaster and cell phone calls can’t be made.


To stay safe, take some time—before you need them—to download the apps that are most appropriate for your family. Below are five excellent disaster apps that are free of charge and can be used on both Apple and Android phones and ­devices…

For convenience: Put several apps into a folder (named “disaster” or something similar).

The following apps require Wi-Fi or cell service…

American Red Cross is a good all-in-one app that offers 35 different alerts for severe weather (including hurricanes, winter storms and earthquakes) and a map to open Red Cross shelters. You receive text alerts when severe weather is predicted. With this app, you can monitor these conditions in your own area plus the locations of your loved ones. Great feature: With “Family Safe,” you can use this app to tell loved ones that an alert has been issued in their area and check to be sure they are safe.

Winter Survival Kit. Developed by North Dakota State University, this app will help you find your location if you are stranded in severe winter weather, call 911 and notify your friends and family. Great feature: The app’s “gas calculator” estimates how long you can run your engine on your remaining fuel. The app also reminds you every 30 minutes to periodically turn off your engine to check your exhaust pipe for snow buildup—a crucial step in avoiding deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.

Outbreaks Near Me by HealthMap. This app shows all the current disease outbreaks in your community, including up-to-date tallies of flu cases in your area. Great feature: You can set the app to alert you via text whenever an outbreak is occurring in your area.

ReUnite allows the public to report missing and/or found people after a large-scale disaster. Great feature: This app allows you to upload photos and a physical description of a missing loved one to help disaster relief personnel find that person after an emergency.

Federal Emergency Management Agency gives tips on what to do before, during and after more than 20 types of disasters, as well as the locations of open shelters and disaster recovery centers in your area, which offer crucial services during floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters. Great feature: This app’s “Disaster Reporter” allows you to upload photos of damage and recovery efforts in your area.

Also helpful: In Case of Emergency (ICE) and flashlight apps—most reside on mobile devices and do not require Wi-Fi or cell service to operate. If you don’t have a cell phone that will allow you to use an ICE app, be sure to create an emergency contact card that you carry with you at all times in your wallet or purse. For a downloadable contact card that can be printed, go to: