When a natural disaster hits, power and mobile networks are often unavailable -- but that doesn't mean that you can't set up your phone ahead of time to be useful. Here's what you should load up on your smartphone to be ready when fire, flood or chaos strike.
We've described before the "disaster kits" you should have need to have in the house. Any good disaster kit is enough to get you through at least 72 hours without power, food or water. A well-prepared smartphone is a useful addition to the mix.
Get A First Aid App
One of the most important elements of your disaster kit is your first aid kit, but that's not much help if you don't know how to actually use the materials inside. We're fans of the official Red Cross First Aid app (the British Red Cross app is also fantastic) and Pocket First Aid & CPR. Those apps ensure you'll always have descriptions of basic first aid procedures to hand.
Store Important Documents On Your Phone
Every disaster kit should include copies of important documents such as passports, birth certificates, title deeds and other essentials. As well as physical copies, keep a digital backup. If you want to store those files in the cloud, we'd recommend doing so with an encrypted Dropbox folder. Then, just grab a copy of the Dropbox mobile app so you'll have access to them from anywhere, even if you can't get to your computer. Likewise, you can keep a scanned copy of those documents on your phone as well.
Download Offline Maps
Maps can be incredibly helpful during an emergency, but you won't be able to use smartphone maps if the local mobile network is done. Thankfully, you can prep ahead and download offline maps in the Google Maps app by simply typing "Okay Maps" in the search bar. This saves the local map to your device so you can retrieve it anytime regardless of data availability or GPS access. If you want to be doubly sure you have those maps, an app like Galileo Offline Maps will provide that peace of mind.
Find Family and Friends With GPS
An app that tracks your friends and family's location is incredibly helpful after a disaster. You often can't text message or call during a disaster, so your best bet to track someone down is with GPS assuming it's working. You have a lot of choices for this, but we like Apple's Find My Friends, Android's Find My Friends! or the cross-platform Life360. Just remember to turn the apps off when you're not using them.
Use Survival Apps For Extra Knowledge
We've talked about how you can survive both in the wilderness and in an urban environment before, but you might not remember those details when you need them. So, it's a good idea to load up your smartphone with apps to help you out. A good place to start is the Army Survival Guide (<a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.androidtrainer.surviveAndroid/iOS) which includes almost everything you'll ever need to know about basic survival techniques.