When disaster strikes, you’ll fare better if you’re prepared. It’s important to have essentials on hand like drinking water, nonperishable food, battery powered flashlights and phone chargers or power banks.
What’s on your phone may be just as valuable. You can pull up Google’s Public Alerts to start, and then check out our top 17 apps to help you before, during and after the next emergency — whether it’s a hurricane, earthquake, wildfire or flooding. Many of these Android and iOS apps work both online and off for help during power outages or a loss of cell service.
What to do before an emergency
1. Weather Underground
2. Hurricane Hound
As its name implies, Hurricane Hound (Android) lets you track active hurricanes using US radar and weather satellite data.
3. Natural Disaster Monitor
4. MyRadar Weather Radar
MyRadar Weather Radar (Android, iOS) provides you with timely and accurate data on approaching storms, courtesy of high-res animated weather radars and 11 different overlay graphics, including a current satellite image of cloud cover. You can also enable severe weather watches and warnings via push notifications, so you’re alerted about impending thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornados.
5. First Aid: American Red Cross
Get invaluable, life-saving tips and instructions to help you and others survive everyday emergencies and natural disasters — such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes — with the First Aid: American Red Cross (Android, iOS) app. American Red Cross also has a slew of apps to help you during specific disasters, including Tornado (Android, iOS), Flood (Android, iOS) and Hurricane (Android, iOS).
6. Disaster Alert
7. ICE Medical Standard
ICE Medical Standard (Android, iOS) puts your vital health info and emergency medical contacts on your lock screen, so first responders can see it all immediately, whether you’re dazed, confused or unconscious.
What to do during an emergency
Dialing 911 from a mobile phone doesn’t bring instant aid, because dispatchers need some location info to find you. SirenGPS (Android, iOS) puts them at the touch of one big red button. If your community subscribes to Siren 911, nearby first responders will receive your location and profile (emergency contacts, medical history, allergies and current medications, which you put into the app), improving your chance of being rescued in time.
9. Trusted Contacts
Just add your loved ones and allow them to request your location in Trusted Contacts (Android, iOS). You can share your whereabouts proactively or when requested. If you’re unable to respond to requests, your last known location is shared automatically, even if you’re offline or out of battery.
10. Zello Walkie Talkie
Zello Walkie Talkie (Android, iOS) may have made the news and topped the App Store during recent hurricanes when word spread that volunteers were using it to coordinate rescue efforts. But the push-to-talk wide-range communication app is useful in more temperate times as well.
11. LifeLine Response
For a subscription fee of $4.99 per month to LifeLine Response (Android, iOS), you’ll get a more immediate emergency response (based on GPS information and cell-tower triangulation) than if you called 911 and had to explain where you were.
Noonlight offers emergency help with the press and release of a button in the Noonlight (Android, iOS) app. Basic features like that panic button are free, but there are also subscription offers of $4.99 or $9.99 for even more safety tools. With Noonlight’s latest update, for $9.99 per month, riders and drivers of cars, bikes and scooters will also get automatic crash detection and response. Just activate the Noonlight app on your smartphone, and you are covered. Noonlight will soon launch a driver score feature to give users feedback on their driving safety.
13. Pet First Aid
Animals are people, too, especially cats and dogs. So get first-aid steps for over 25 common pet situations via text, video and images, or locate your nearest emergency vet hospital in the Pet First Aid (Android, iOS) app.
14. Emergency: Alerts
15. Find My Family, Friends & Phone
What to do after an emergency
You’ve survived the disaster, but now what? The FEMA (Android, iOS) app, developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, ensures that you find local relief centers to access key services, shelter and more.
ReUnite (Android, iOS) is one of the most valuable apps around if you’re separated from your loved ones during a natural disaster. To report a lost or found person, just upload their photo and information.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story ran on Download.com last year.