Even without Wi-Fi service or electricity, a partially charged cellphone has the ability to offer CPR instructions, act as a flashlight or provide access to critical insurance documents. Here are 10 apps residents might rely on for help before, during and after an emergency:
1. StopDisaster: iPhone, $1.99; Disaster Readiness Guide: Android, $1.29
Provides preparedness checklists for hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards and other natural disasters to help homeowners build an emergency kit, get documents in order and store emergency phone numbers, ready to dial.
2. Dropbox: Android and iPhone, free
Essentially, Dropbox is cloud storage. Install the program on your PC or Mac, upload files to a folder and instantly access them on all computer devices. Important files can be bookmarked and made available on smartphone.
3. Flashlight by Rik: iPhone; Brightest Flashlight: Android, free
These apps turn a phone into a flashlight and are getting more powerful as smartphone cameras add LED flashbulbs. Keep in mind, however, that these apps can result in high battery drain.
4. Hurricane Tracker: iPhone, $1.99; Hurricane Software: Android, free
This hurricane-tracking app is for serious weather junkies. It provides the latest official maps, data and projections for severe weather.
5. Life360: Android and iPhone, free
Everyone can agree on the top priority in a disaster: finding family. Life360 uses GPS tracking in smartphones to locate loved ones on a map and provide safety alerts to them or call for help with the tap of a button.
6. 5-0 Radio Police Scanner Lite: iPhone; Scanner Radio: Android, free
During a disaster, everyone hears rumors. Find real answers on police and firefighter band radio, which can be picked up using this app. Remember, feeds are unfiltered.
7. Waze: Android and iPhone, free
Possibly the cheapest and most popular way to guide motorists out of town on an unfamiliar route, these apps provide traffic alerts and can even work without a cellular signal if maps are downloaded ahead of time.
8. GasBuddy: Android and iPhone, free
GasBuddy uses GPS software to display up-to-the-minute gas prices near drivers as they travel.
9. Hands-Only CPR: Android and iPhone, free
To treat an adult suffering from cardiac arrest, the American Heart Association recommends hands-only CPR and this app walks people through the two-step checklist: Call 911, then start chest compressions. A brief video explains.
10. American Red Cross: Shelter View: iPhone, free
When a disaster drives people from their homes, the American Red Cross steps in to provide shelters. This app, not yet on Android, gives directions to the sites.