GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While living in Florida has its perks, the one thing that can ruin it (and rather quickly) is hurricane season. By now we should have all our hurricane preparation plan ready. But Wait! There is one more thing you need to do to prepare.
In times of disasters, information is a powerful tool. A digital hurricane kit can help you get the information you need, when you need it. From tracking storms to emergency walkie-talkie capabilities and where to find gas, these FREE apps can help you weather the storm.
Max Mayfield Hurricane Tracker – Get the latest storm updates wherever you are with push alerts. See where storms are headed with their interactive radar and watch weather updates on the go.
Hurricane — American Red Cross – This hurricane tracker allows you to monitor conditions in your immediate area, as well as locations currently within a storm system. The app incorporates an interactive storm tracker map and predictive models.
Weather Underground – This app provides local forecasts and conditions from weather stations with customizable alerts. It also allows you to report local weather and hazards to help inform others in the community. The map interface is interactive, allowing you to choose different layers to view elements, such as rain accumulation, crowd reports, and satellite images.
Emergency Alerts- Make sure your phone is set to receive wireless emergency alerts.
- Open the Settings app on your phone.
- Select Notifications and scroll down to the bottom of the menu.
- Select Government Alerts and toggle the switches to select the alerts you would like to receive.
- Open your phone’s Settings menu.
- Select Apps and Notifications.
- Select Emergency Alerts. On some phones you might have to tap Advanced to expand the menu and show the Emergency Alerts button.
- In the Emergency Alerts menu, you can toggle the switches to select which alerts you would like to receive.
The FEMA app – This app helps you to locate emergency shelters and disaster recovery centers. It allows you to register for disaster assistance online and share photos. It is available in both English and Spanish.
For other shelter options try Harmany – This app was created after hurricane Harvey to connect people in need of temporary shelters with those who want to provide it during emergencies and evacuation events.
To find gas availability, download the GasBuddy app.
For a map of Xfinity Wi-Fi hot spots, which are located in places such as shopping districts, parks and businesses, visit xfinity.com/wifi.
To check traffic slowdowns or wrecks, road closures and other real-time traffic issues, go to Waze.
Caring for Loved Ones –
Call your local physician or insurance company to access and download their app or you could try the TeleDoc app.
Connect with Each Other-
FireChat – No cell service? No internet? No problem. This free messaging app works without any of those things, relying on mesh networks instead. However, In the app, you can create private groups of up to 50 people or create public chat rooms using hashtags.
Zello — Is a push-to-talk app, sort of like a walkie-talkie. There are no limits to the number of users or channels. It’s available worldwide, wherever there’s WiFi or data service, and can be used like a two-way radio to communicate with family members or rescuers.
Nextdoor – This app keeps you informed about what’s going on in your neighborhood and connects you with your neighbors. The app provides a secure environment where all neighbors are verified. In the app, neighbors can discuss evacuation routes, flood levels, or ask for help from their neighbors, even when other emergency communication methods such as 9-1-1 are down.
WhatsApp – During hurricanes or storms, telecommunication services can be limited, but WhatsApp connects to the internet to send messages between phones so that you can stay in touch with friends and loved ones throughout the storm. It also allows you to do free voice and video calls.
Take some basic precautions for keeping your smartphone safe and you can keep any document encrypted on your phone. This way, information is protected, and it is in your pocket if you need it in an emergency. Include documents such as insurance papers, copies of identification, plans, policies, procedures, pictures of your home pre-disaster for insurance, photos of loved ones etc.
Both DropBox and Google Drive apps allows you to access any photos or documents that you upload to the system through any device connected to the internet and to download documents directly to your device.
Crowdsource Rescue –this app helps with “neighbors rescuing neighbors.” The app was developed by too quickly to connect professional first responders and vetted volunteers with all those in need of help. The app uses GPS tracking and allows civilian volunteers, such as those who may have a boat, to sign in and help evacuate others in the area.
Get the ICE (in case of emergency) Medical Standard app Android, iOS this will put your vital health info and emergency medical contacts on your lock screen, so first responders can see it all immediately.
Living in a hurricane prone area, I try to always be prepared. And as surprising as it may be, your smartphone can be a helpful preparation tool, just make sure it’s charged.
–Alicia Betancourt, UF/IFAS