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The Best Apps to Have in an Emergency

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Screenshot: FEMA

Most emergencies don’t come with advance warning, which is why it’s best to do some basic preparation ahead of time. You can check out tips for extremely specific emergencies and create an ‘If I Go Missing’ file, but don’t forget the one useful lifesaving tool you undoubtedly have with you at all times: you phone. Here are seven recommendations for essential apps to download in case of emergency.

An offline messaging app

Internet connectivity is often disrupted during serious emergencies. To get around it, it’s a good idea to download a few offline messaging apps. Instead of relying on a cell signal, most of these apps use Bluetooth or wifi to find people around you.

As long as others have the same app installed and are within 150 to 300 feet of your current location, you will be able to message them. If you use Android, Briar is a great option. For cross-platform use, Bridgefy is a solid alternative.

A better way to contact people around you

If internet isn’t disrupted, you can try Zello, a walkie talkie app that lets you talk to people over cellular or wifi. Zello has public and private channels where you can talk to others around you and reach out for help. While it is a useful tool for emergencies, the app will not work if Zello servers are down.

Get disaster alerts in realtime

The U.S. government’s Department of Homeland Security’s agency for emergencies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has a useful app that alerts you about emergencies in any location within the country.

The FEMA app allows you to pick a location and select the kinds of emergencies for which you’d like notifications, including natural disasters, evacuations, and other hazards, plus it contains information for dealing with various types of emergencies. Should you find yourself in one of these situations, the app also offers resources you can reach out to.

Apps to teach you some first aid

If you’re facing a health emergency, the American Red Cross’ First Aid app, available on iPhone and Android, will help. It has easy to follow first aid instructions for various medical emergencies, plus links to additional resources and information on hospitals near you.

An app for your pets

The American Red Cross also has a useful first aid app to help your cats or dogs. It contains instructions on dealing with veterinary emergencies, including first aid and links to nearby vet hospitals.

Pet First Aid has interactive quizzes that makes it easy to learn what to do when your pet is in danger so you can react accordingly if something should happen. You can download Pet First Aid on iPhone or Android.

Location-sharing apps make it easy for people to find you

When you need to contact emergency first responders, you can use various apps to share your location with them—especially useful if you live in a neighborhood with confusing signs or unusual numbering patterns. You can easily share your location using iMessage, WhatsApp; alternatively, you can try location sharing via apps such Google Maps or SirenGPS (Android, iPhone).

Don’t forget your phone’s built-in SOS features

Smartphones ship with plenty of SOS features built-in, so take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with them. You never know when they’ll be useful.

Your iPhone has an Emergency SOS feature that takes a minute to learn. Similarly, you should enable Fall Detection on your Apple Watch to alert others when you need help. If you use an Android phone, here’s a neat hack to create an SOS alert on your phone.

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