by Jay Acker, who works with US-based Safety Services Company
There’s an app for almost everything these days, including staying alive in an emergency. Within the last year, the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross have developed free full-featured smartphone apps to help users prepare for and survive a natural disaster, taking full advantage of the portability, interactivity and connectivity of a smartphone.Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are replacing TV news and radio for accessing social media to find info before and after a disaster.
These apps provide information to prepare for a natural disaster, and put information at your fingertips at the critical moment, and give guidance on rebuilding after the fact.
The FEMA apps for Android, Apple and Blackberry devices, sport a comprehensive approach to assistance for: – earthquakes, extreme heat, fires, floods, hurricanes, terrorism, thunderstorms, tornadoes, tsunamis, wildfires and winter storms.
For example, navigating to ‘What to do before a hurricane’ brings up that you need to board windows with 5/8 inch marine plywood.
The ‘What to do during a hurricane’ option explains conditions that necessitate an evacuation and what to do if it is too late to evacuate.
Did you remember to stow a can opener and mobile phone charger? What medication do you need in your emergency kit?
The FEMA app helps you build an emergency kit list, suggesting items and editable to your needs.
Co-ordinate with family by filling in emergency meeting locations and use the maps function for directions to the nearest Disaster Recovery Center.
A recent post of the accessible blog, reminds Hurricane Sandy survivors to be aware of scam artists, emphasising there is no fee to sign up for FEMA support, and suggesting people get three written estimates for repairs.
The FEMA app focuses on providing access to FEMA assistance after a disaster through the phone, and avenues to apply on the web.
The app has a few more features, including links to the FEMA’s website and social media, and an option to receive tips via texts.
However, the American Red Cross provides a suite of apps offering even more interactivity freely available on iTunes and Google Play.
They are separate apps for hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires with tornadoes and floods apps being developed.
These allow you to sign up for alerts, and make a plan with contact information and evacuation and meeting points.
The earthquake alerts come from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and warnings on hurricanes and wildfires come straight from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The flashier functions include activating your phone as a flashlight or strobe and sending out an ‘I’m safe’ message through email and social media at the touch of a button.
Where these apps really shine is the step-by-step instructions during an emergency.
First they list the most important steps, ‘if you do nothing else’, then they give prompts based on the situations: – ‘If you’re ordered to evacuate’; ‘if it’s flooding in and/or around your home’; “if the power goes out’; and ‘First Aid’.
Be sure to install the companion apps: – First Aid by American Red Cross and American Red Cross: Shelter View.
Once installed, you can jump to a map of any nearby Red Cross Shelters, or open a library of first aid advice.
The First Aid app lists injuries and provides step-by-step instructions with follow-up questions and prompts you to call 911 when necessary.
The First Aid app is worth checking out before facing an immediate emergency.
The ‘Learn’ tab walks you through different scenarios, with videos and instructions before testing your knowledge.
The ‘Prepare’ tab offers a checklist of preparations, steps to follow during the emergency and related first aid.
These apps are a quick reference guide to any emergency in your pocket.
And when you get a signal, they get you updated information like FEMA and Red Cross shelters, important news updates and help you use social media to connect with family and start rebuilding.
Jay Acker leads a production team at safetyservicescompany.com that creates safety training materials. SSC offers contractor certification assistance for ISNetworld, PICS, and other contractor verification servicers.