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Featured in USAA Magazine

If you live in a disaster-prone area, such as the coast, the Midwest, the South or, well, pretty much anywhere — your best friend during a crisis might be your smartphone.

Of course, you can’t count on cellular, Wi-Fi service or power to charge your batteries during a disaster, but even a partially charged phone may be able to show you how to do CPR, act as a flashlight or give you access to your insurance documents.



Here are 11 apps to help you before, during and after the next disaster.


iPhone® $1.99

Knowing what to do in a disaster and knowing how to prepare for one are priceless. Well, $1.99. That’s what you’ll pay for StopDisaster, an iPhone app that helps walk you through preparedness checklists for hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards and other natural disasters. It’ll help you build an emergency kit, get your documents in order and store your emergency phone numbers, ready to dial.

For Android® users, a similar app called Disaster Readiness Guide costs $1.29.


Android and iPhone Free (limited version)

You may intend to grab your laptop when the earth shakes, but what if you can’t? If you have copies of your important files stored in a Dropbox account, you should be able to access them even if your computer doesn’t make it out.

Get Your Go-Bag Ready
If you don’t have a go-bag, make one now. Be sure to buy a handful of cheap, disposable backup batteries for mobile devices and throw them in your bag. Check out for what else an emergency kit should contain. Keep it packed and ready.

Essentially, Dropbox is cloud storage. Install the program on your PC or Mac, upload files to your folder and they should be instantly available on all your other computers. And with the app, your files should be found on your mobile devices as well. Don’t have network access? Don’t worry. If you categorized your important files with a star, you should still be able to get them on your smartphone.

Flashlight by Rik

for iPhone

Brightest Flashlight Free

for Android 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. No more rummaging around for a flashlight — and batteries — in those first confusing moments. Keep in mind, however, that your phone’s battery should be fully charged when you use flashlight apps, and these apps also can result in high battery drain.

Hurricane Tracker

iPhone $1.99

When a hurricane is approaching, you don’t want a storm-tracker map from three hours ago; you need the latest official maps, data and projections. This hurricane-tracking app is for serious weather junkies and people who want the most accurate information as they make decisions.

For Android, try the free Hurricane Software app.


Android and iPhone Free

Everyone can agree on the top priority in a disaster: finding your family. These days, most of your family members probably carry a personal tracking device in the form of their smartphone. Life360 should show you where they are — right now — on a map. The family GPS tracking system should help you find your loved ones, get safety alerts to them or call for help with the tap of a button. It also provides neighborhood safety monitoring.

Facebook for iPhone

Facebook for Android

Twitter for iPhone

Twitter for Android


In a crisis, social media can turn from gossip lines to possible lifelines. Whether your friends and family are safe or in danger, they could be posting about it on Facebook and Twitter. Plus, you’ll know about some local businesses that are open after a storm or other natural disaster.

Public agencies also post updates on Twitter. Consider following the National Hurricane Center, FEMA and your local transit agency and police department.

5-0 Radio Police Scanner Lite

iPhone Free

During a disaster, everyone hears rumors. What’s really going on? The answer might be found on police band radio, which you can pick up using this free app. This isn’t talk radio; it’s an unfiltered feed of cops, firefighters and other public-safety officers. It shouldn’t be your only news source, but it could be worth listening in.

Android users, try the free Scanner Radio app.

MotionX GPS Drive

iPhone 99 cents

If you have an iPhone, MotionX GPS Drive is the cheapest and most popular way to guide you out of town on an unfamiliar route. The software even should work without a cellular signal if you plan ahead and download and cache maps.

For help with your local traffic and commutes, Android and iPhone users might consider the Waze app, too. This app provides free navigation and connects you to your local driving community.


Android and iPhone Free

Gas prices may be high, but they’re not likely to vary by a dollar or more among stations. That could change during a crisis. GasBuddy uses your GPS to display up-to-the-minute gas prices near you.

Hands-Only CPR

Android and iPhone 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.

For $1.99, the American Heart Association’s Pocket First Aid & CPR includes the same CPR information along with first aid advice for all sorts of situations.

American Red Cross: Shelter View

iPhone Free

When a hurricane or earthquake drives people from their homes, the American Red Cross steps in to provide shelter. That’s great as long as you know how to find the shelter. American Red Cross: Shelter View directs you to the sites.

Currently, this app is not available for Android, but you can still go online to search for a Red Cross shelter.


For more links to aid one in a disaster, see our PCS links and Family Support Page.