If you live along the vulnerable East Coast, the tornado-prone Midwest, the flood-prone South or pretty much anywhere else, your best friend during a disaster might be your smartphone.
Of course, you can't count on cellular service, Wi-Fi or electricity during a disaster. But even a partially charged phone may be able to show you how to perform CPR, act as a flashlight or give you access to your insurance documents. Keep car chargers and solar-powered battery chargers in your emergency kit so you're ready when the power goes out.
Here's our latest roundup of smartphone apps that can help you before, during and after the next disaster.
1. FEMA (iPhone), free. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's app arms users with information about different types of disasters, how to prepare, what to do when a catastrophe occurs and how to recover. A disaster reporter tab allows users to share photos and information when disasters strike within the U.S. Users can also apply for FEMA assistance on the app and find open shelters and FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers.
2. Flashlight by Rik (iPhone) or Brightest Flashlight (for Android), both free. These apps, which turn your phone into a flashlight, are getting more powerful as smartphone cameras add LED flashbulbs. If the power goes out, a flashlight app can be invaluable. Keep in mind, however, that these apps can rapidly drain your battery.
3. American Red Cross (iPhone and Android), free. Whether you're facing a hurricane, tornado, flood or other severe weather, the American Red Cross has a suite of apps that help you prepare, apply first aid and find shelter. The suite also includes an app to put your altruism to use as a volunteer. There's even a first aid app for your pets.
4. Hurricane Tracker (iPhone) $1.99. This app offers tracking maps from the National Hurricane Center, weather radio feeds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, audio and video forecast updates, and real-time alerts.
5. iii Toolkit (iPhone), free. The Insurance Information Institute's three-in-one app includes Know Your Stuff® to keep inventory of your belongings; Know Your Plan to create your disaster preparedness checklist; and Know Your Coverage to make sure your insurance provides protection against trouble before it happens. (On Android: Know Your Stuff is available, but the rest of the suite is not.)
6. Flash Weather Alerts (iPhone and Android), $7.99. The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes offers this customizable weather radio app that includes bilingual tips for family safety and home strengthening. The app also offers weather alerts, a "follow me" feature that provides alerts for areas you’re traveling through, and a friends and family feature that allows for five fixed locations
7. Waze (iPhone and Android), free. This social media app helps members get around traffic, learn about nearby gas prices and navigate to their destination. Members of this community can report traffic delays, accidents and gas prices to other drivers — all useful information when searching for a good evacuation route.
8. Hands-Only CPR (iPhone and Android), free. To treat an adult suffering from cardiac arrest, the American Heart Association recommends hands-only CPR. No more mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. But you still have to do it right. The official Hands-Only CPR app walks you through the two-step checklist: Call 911, then start chest compressions. A brief video shows you what to do.