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Mobile apps to help in a hurricane

Screenshot from "Disaster Prep" app

As someone who's been through a few hurricanes, and who has several emergency kits ready to go, I can tell you there are far more resources now than ever. Before you start knocking heads over that last bottle of water in the grocery aisle, try downloading these free mobile apps in preparation for the coming storm. They might make all the difference in the world as Irene — or any disaster — approaches. 

Disaster Prep (iPhone only): Fairly comprehensive in its scope, this app covers disaster kit checklists, a personal medical record database, reminders every six months to check/rotate kit supplies, family emergency plan forms, insurance and vehicle information, as well as first aid and basic CPR. Also a bonus, if and when you have more time: The ability to import photos and PDF files of EKGs, X-rays, lab results and other medical information. (Nicely done, San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department Emergency Preparedness Office!)

Screenshot of "FEMA" app

Federal Emergency Management Agency (Android only): Another comprehensive app that features an interactive checklist for emergency kits, a section to plan emergency meeting locations, information on how to stay safe during and in the aftermath of a disaster, a map with FEMA Disaster Recovery Center locations (one-stop centers where disaster survivors can access key relief services) and shelters, general ways the public can get involved before and after a disaster, and if that's not enough reading for you, the FEMA blog.

Shelter View by American Red Cross (iPhone only): This app gives lets users map locations and shelter details across the United States. They can zoom in to the local area and view details on each shelter, such as which agency is managing the shelter, its capacity and current population, the disaster event and the specific shelter address and location. The info comes via the American Red Cross National Shelter System (NSS), which includes 60,000 potential disaster facilities.

Screenshot of American Red Cross' "Shelter View" app

More than likely, you're also trying to find resources to stock up on to fill those lists, like food and gas. So definitely download these to help you:

Gas Buddy (iPhone, Android): This app not only will map the closest gas stations to you, it'll tell you how much you'll expect to pay. We know beggars can't be choosers when demand is so high, but at least this way, you have options. 

Poynt (iPhone, Android): Like the name suggests, this app points you to nearby businesses based on your search specifications, people, restaurants, gas stations, events and movies, should you feel like it's all too much and you need to get away for a few hours of reality-free, storm-free life. 

Screenshot of step-by-step video instruction on the "S.O.S" app

During a crisis, you never know what may come up, and you may not have access to health care providers as soon as you like, since they're likely to be deployed to the heart of the emergency. Even if you know basic first aid, it doesn't hurt to have something like this on hand:

S.O.S by American Red Cross (Android only): Step-by-step video narration by Dr. Oz (yes, Dr. Oz, from the show) on 50 common emerency care situations and allows users to follow along with demos; and 3-D animations, audio and visual counters for real time CPR compressions.

ICE: Emergency Contact  (Android, similar apps are available for iPhone): With one click (a widget on your home screen), you can send SMS alerts to all your saved contacts and call rescue workers if you're in trouble and need help immediately. You can save useful medical information for rescue workers (allergies, medications, pre-existing conditions, your identity, organ donor status, blood type, etc.) and contact the right people "in case of emergency." (Get it?)

Screenshot of the "ICE" widget on an Android home screen

BuddyGuard VIP (iPhone only): Primarily billed as a way to protect your iPhone in case of theft, it records "images, audio and your GPS location and sends them to a server in the cloud. It's like your own black box." But it goes the extra step in sending alerts to friends, family, or whoever you designate, if you fail to check in at the time you set.

If Irene and the earthquake before it got you a little jumpy for the next disaster, consider downloading this so you'll see what's coming in plenty of time before it strikes:

Disaster Alert by Pacific Disaster Center (iPhone, Android): It runs down a listing and an interactive map of "Active Hazards" occurring around the globe, that includes (but is not limited to) hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and volcanoes. 

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