Worldwide, disasters affect an average 450 million people at a cost of $17.6 billion. If we’ve learned nothing else from recent disasters such as the Colorado floods, Hurricane Sandy, and active shooter incidents at Sandy Hook and the Naval Shipyard, we’ve discovered that one of the most important tools for preparing for and recovering from disasters is two-way communication.
So, while social media platforms such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest were originally conceived as ways for people to interact socially, they have emerged as integral tools for emergency management and disaster response. The newest social media tools and, arguably, the most cost effective for managing disasters and emergencies are Smartphone apps. I don’t have a Smartphone because my paws are too big to push the little buttons.
According to social media guru Zoe Fox of Mashable:
- One in five Americans has used an emergency app.
- 76% of Americans affected by natural disasters have used social media to contact friends and family
- 44% have asked their online communities to contact responders
- 37% have used social media to help find shelter and supplies
- 24% used social media to let loved ones know they’re safe
- 25% have downloaded disaster apps
- 99.9% of dogs love bacon. (This doesn’t have a lot to do with emergency management. But I think it’s an important statistic.)
Here is just a small sampling of the thousands of disaster preparedness and emergency management Smartphone apps available to download for a maximum price of $5.99:
- Are You Ready? Helps prepare users to pass the FEMA IS-22 exam so they can receive an official FEMA certificate of completion.
- BioAgent Facts from the Center for Biosecurity of the University Pittsburgh Medical Center provides facts about pathogens that could cause serious disease resulting from a natural epidemic or use as a biological weapon.
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC) app and web page provides health and safety information related to emergencies and disasters.
- Clinicians’ Biosecurity Resource from the Center for Biosecurity of the University Pittsburgh Medical Center provides clinicians with detailed information and recommended treatments for the most dangerous potential bio weapons.
- Disaster Alert developed by Pacific Disaster Center provides access to information in both a list and on an interactive map about active hazards occurring around the globe.
- Disaster Prep features an Emergency Preparedness Checklist and Guide. The app provides users a means to collect necessary information.
- Disaster Preparedness for the Family is an eGuide which has an all-hazards overview of disaster information to help families prepare so they can provide for their family’s most basic needs during a disaster.
- Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mobile enhanced web page identifies nearby industrial facilities and toxic chemical releases as reported through the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Program.
- ERS: Emergency Response and Salvage from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training outlines critical stages of disaster response for damage to collections and significant records.
- FEMA app and mobile enhanced web page provide government disaster response information.
- First Aid from the American Red Cross provides free lifesaving first aid instruction and disaster preparedness information including videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice.
- FluView developed by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks influenza-like illness activity levels across the U.S.
- Hands-Only™ CPR from the American Heart Association provides quick instructions for CPR without mouth-to-mouth breaths.
- JusticeMobile gives officers direct access to criminal information. The app was tested by 600 San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) officers and will soon be available across the state, including 3,600 Los Angeles Police Department officers.
- Know Your Plan features property protection guidance and contains disaster preparedness checklists for hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes, severe winter weather and evacuations. It also gives the option of setting up reminders to complete a task, tracking progress and customizing and sharing checklists with social networks.
- LactMed from the National Library of Medicine app provides access information about maternal and infant drug levels and possible effects of vaccines and radiologic agents on lactation and on breastfed infants.
- LibraryFloods from the National Library of Medicine covers basic steps for recovering collections after a water emergency in your library.
- MedlinePlus mobile enhanced web page from the National Library of Medicine provides access to consumer-oriented health information on disaster topics in English and Spanish.
- Mobile Medical Unit Field Operations Guide was developed for the Northern New England Metropolitan Response System but is applicable to other response teams such as MRC, CERT, DMAT and others. The app contains access to packing lists, deployment guidelines, treatment reference, and more.
- National Weather Service mobile enhanced web page provides weather, hydrologic, and climate-forecasts and warnings for the United States.
- NFPA 1600 developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), provides a foundation for disaster and emergency management planning. The entire text is fully searchable and contains active links and phone numbers for NFPA and other agencies involved with emergency management programs, risk mitigation and response.
- OutbreaksNearMe provides real-time, searchable disease outbreak information for your neighborhood on interactive maps.
- Pet Lover Apps are not necessarily disaster or emergency-related. But they will help you feed and care for your pet in the manner to which he or she has become accustomed.
- Pocket First Aid & CPR from the American Heart Association provides quick, concise and clear first aid and CPR instructions from a user’s Smartphone.
- PubMed Mobile from the National Library of Medicine provides access to more than 21 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books.
- REMM (Radiation Emergency Medical Management) from the National Library of Medicine provides guidance about clinical diagnosis and treatment of radiation injuries during radiological and nuclear emergencies.
- Shelter Finder displays open Red Cross shelters and their current population on an easy to use map interface.
- SOS app from the American Red Cross provides step-by-step video narration and follow demonstrations allowing people to quickly and confidently respond to common emergency situations with the goal of saving lives.
- UbAlert — Disaster Alert Network is a global social network that operates to save lives by sharing the knowledge of the world’s citizens with those in danger.
- WISER (Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders) from the National Library of Medicine assists first responders in Hazmat incidents, with features including substance identification support, containment and suppression advice, and medical treatment information.
It would be virtually impossible to compile a list of each and every available disaster preparation or emergency management app, as new applications are in development each and every day. But the point is that apps aren’t going away. If you have a Smartphone, you have access to a virtually unlimited number of resources to help you before, during and after a manmade or natural disaster. So maybe I need to find one that works for me and my paws?
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