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7 Smartphone Apps for Emergencies That You Need to Download Right Now

Want to be notified if there's a tornado coming your way, or need a way to communicate with others if cell phone towers are down? These emergency and weather apps can help you stay safe.

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Download and Be Prepared

Are you a weather junkie? Does the crackly, staticky sound of an emergency NOAA weather alert prick up your ears and set your pulse racing? Of course, even those who aren’t transfixed by the troposphere or mesmerized by millibars have a big stake in knowing when an adverse weather event might strike. When it comes to natural disasters, the best approach is an abundance of caution. Take a page from the Boy Scouts Handbook and be prepared, starting with this rundown of the best emergency and weather apps to download right now.

The Weather Channel

The joke is that when Jim Cantore, the Weather Channel’s most recognizable meteorologist, shows up in your hometown, it’s time to batten down the hatches. The intrepid interpreter of communiqués from the National Weather Service has been the face of this TV station for an impressive 35 years; his history and household-name status help make TWC’s app one of the most popular and reliable. You’ll need a cable TV subscription to access your local forecast—and Cantore’s live-on-location antics—when you’re out and about.

Android | iPhone

Weather Underground

A pioneer of internet weather information that’s approaching its 30th anniversary, Weather Underground stands at the intersection of science and crowdsourcing. It uses extensive real-time data provided by more than 250,000 members to compile up-to-the-minute, hyperlocal information and microclimate-level forecasts. In other words, Weather Underground provides actual temperature and condition reports from real people in real neighborhoods rather than relying on data from weather stations at airports and other standard locations.

Related: 15 Things You Should Have at the Ready in Case the Power Goes Out

The Red Cross

For 140 years, The American Red Cross—both its name and its eponymous symbol—has been synonymous with emergency preparedness and relief around the globe. The organization’s original First Aid app allows iOS and Android users alike to access a wealth of practical content, such as step-by-step first aid instructions. There are also detailed disaster response plans that help victims and bystanders prioritize their actions and navigate easily through any unforeseen accident or incident. Additionally, the Red Cross offers a suite of specialized apps for different demographics and specific disaster scenarios.

Clime: NOAA Weather Radar Live & Alerts

Hard-core weather watchers know the name NOAA from those aforementioned alerts. Yet the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration boasts a multitude of other services, from stewardship of shipwrecks to safeguarding coral reefs, and from climate-change research to compiling nautical charts. Such abundant data—along with first-class functionality, interactive terrain and satellite maps, and real-time radar—make NOAA’s offering, Clime, one of the top weather apps. Avid travelers will appreciate the ability to bookmark and toggle between several locations. Perhaps best of all, the whole kit and caboodle is customizable.

Related: Are You Prepared for Tornado Season? Mark Your Calendars

ICE Medical Standard

Quick—grab your phone, unlock it, open your contacts, scroll down to the I’s, and find your “in case of emergency” info. Oh, wait. That’s not quick at all.

If your phone is password- or biometrics-protected (and you’re incommunicado), first responders can’t access your contacts. An app called ICE Medical Standard solves that problem by displaying pertinent information right on your smartphone’s lock screen. Now, EMTs and other emergency personnel can see your medical conditions, current medications, allergy info, and ICE contact(s)—at a glance and fast.


Long before we could access the entirety of human knowledge with an object in our pocket, there were walkie-talkies. Whether attached to a hip or strapped on a wrist, these portable two-way devices were an early precursor to today’s ubiquitous smartphones. Now, a push-to-talk messaging app called Zello—essentially an easy-to-use walkie-talkie—can still come in very handy. Just ask Venezuelans, who have relied on Zello to communicate, share info, and stay safe amidst the chaos of ongoing political upheaval.

Related: The Best Weather Radios for Emergencies

FEMA Mobile App

Say what you will about the Federal Emergency Management Agency, their smartphone app is a must-have if you live in a disaster-prone region. Reviewers cite its thoroughness: While many free weather apps have alerts for earthquakes, hurricanes, and blizzards, this FEMA tool also keeps users abreast of avalanches, flooding, fire, child abductions, riots, explosions, 911 outages, hazmat danger, and blackouts. Receive alerts for up to five locations; use text, email, and social platforms to update friends and family in one fell swoop; locate shelters and disaster recovery centers; and even register for post-emergency assistance.