Seven years after Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, we’re all securely addicted to having a world of information in our pockets. Even when there’s not an app per se for different services, the latest step in the evolution of smart phones is mobile versions of websites, so I just save them as bookmarks on the desktop of my phone. As BC professionals, we must be able to quickly manifest and distill pertinent information to help our stakeholders make crucial decisions during a crisis. My goal with this piece is to include not only the obvious and most logical apps and links but to get you to think of how you can use different resources in different ways than you have before.
It pains me that we live in a time when I have to start by saying that Continuity Housing does not endorse, recommend or vouch for the accuracy or validity of the following services yadda yadda. Sheesh.
Disclaimer #2: the more regional links provided here are for those of us in the Houston area, since that’s where Continuity Housing is based. Okay – on to the really important stuff.
First and foremost, a variety of regional utility providers now offer mobile versions of their outage maps, some of which include estimates on when power will be restored to specific areas. Check your organization’s provider to see if they have one. If they don’t, ask them why.
There are a variety of free and fairly reliable weather sources including JustWeather (website) and WeatherBug (website and app), some of which allow you to customize the automatically pushed alerts based on time of day and type and severity of threat(s), although JustWeather’s coverage is currently limited to a small number of cities. Your local TV stations might also provide free or inexpensive weather apps that are more attuned, and therefore probably more accurate, to your more immediate location. I prefer the AccuWeather version that many of the ABC affiliates provide. iMap Weather Radio is another good app that I use and not too pricey at $4.99
Live in quake country? The American Red Cross has a good app that provides information on recent events, how to prepare and what to do after one hits. They also have similar apps that are geared towards tornadoes and wildfires.
Whether you and your team are deploying on the road or not, the Gas Buddy app helps you find the lowest gas prices in your immediate vicinity – although the accuracy and whether the information is current relies on user participation. Crowdsourcing when you’re running on empty isn’t the best option but the app is free. Hot tip: by checking the time stamps on the updates you can see which stations are actually open.
There are a bunch of first aid apps that provide basic instruction on how to provide emergency medical assistance should the need arise, although you get two BC demerits if you don’t already know CPR. I like First Aid Pocket Guide (below left) because of the way they’ve designed the progression of actions based on different types of medical problems. Wiki has a more generalized instant how-to app but it will also tell you how to deliver a baby. And don’t forget the version for pets.
Along the same line, Medical Emergency Response is a relatively new “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” app that provides one-touch notification of the fact that you need help to one or more pre-programmed contacts as soon as you hit the icon. It also dials 911 so you’d need to use good judgment on when to activate it. I’m a little on the fence about how this could best be used after a disaster and I’m curious to know what the rate of accidental activations is but it might apply to your situation or that of a loved one. And what happens if someone finds you unconscious? There’s an app for that, although you should so very totally already have a clearly delineated ICE (In Case of Emergency) number loaded into your phone’s contact list. That one’s three bucks but it also allows you to include information for first responders on any medical conditions you have as well as your insurance info.
Survival Pocket Ref is a catch-all “quick reference guide on basic survival, evasion, first aid and recovery information” that I have on my phone and it’s only 99 cents.
Worried your car might break down or you might get a flat tire from all the windblown debris and broken stuff after a powerful storm, a painful lesson I learned while touring some of the hardest hit areas of New Orleans after Katrina? There are several apps for that but seriously, go take a class. At the very least learn how to change a tire, safely use jumper cables and at least temporarily restore your car’s radiator to operating status. And in addition to all the other stuff you should have ready to go already (go read that one; it’s really good), always, always keep a fully charged standard size fire extinguisher, jumper cables and powerful flash light in your trunk.
Speaking of driving, Google Maps now include a decent traffic overlay but I usually rely on this one because it’s based on embedded road sensors and camera observations. Even medium-sized metro areas now have similar municipally-provided data. Check and see what might be available by simply searching for “(my town) traffic map,” compare different maps for accuracy from time to time and definitely pre-load the one you choose on your phone. I use mine several times a week, even when hell isn’t breaking loose, and it’s a real time-saver.
Speaking of hell breaking loose, this one you just have to look at to get an idea of what’s going on. It’s zoomable but you can also hit the root URL and select specific regions. I’ve heard it referred to as “crisis porn” but glancing at it every so often helps keep things in perspective although it also makes me a little jittery. And yes, somebody else provides a mobile version.
Finally, those of us in hurricane country know about Whataburger’s admirable allegiance to their own “last to close / first to open” policy and hitting their store locator at whataburger.com comes in handy when you need a break from the canned tuna and Triscuits. Same for Academy Sports and Outdoors or the big-box sporting chain in your region. Think batteries, cots, coolers and portable lighting for those of you who didn’t prepare ahead of time but expect competition for whatever is left on the shelves.
Which ones did I forget and what similar links do you use? BC resilience thrives on all of us sharing what works best and we’ll post an updated list based on your input. And remember, if you can’t find or load the links or apps that you want to have in case there’s an emergency, ask the closest 15-year-old. They can do it faster than you can change the batteries in your flashlight.
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