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Locate loved ones with free Red Cross apps

Regardless of where you live in the U.S., natural disasters can strike in a number of ways in the form of a hurricane, tornado or wildfire, just to name a few. When one occurs, it could force you to leave your home suddenly.

Not knowing where loved ones are before, during or after a traumatic weather event can be nerve-wracking.

The American Red Cross has several free apps you can download to your phone.

Even if you download just one, like the Hurricane App, it offers a lot of beneficial features.

"One of the best things about this app is safety at your fingertips, knowing what to do when emergencies strike, being able to let people know in real-time that you're ok if something happens, being able to track storms as they are approaching areas where you live, or maybe loved ones—where they're living," says American Red Cross Spokesperson Kate Meier.

This app also allows you to add contacts, evacuation points, pet-friendly hotels in your area, and establish an evacuation destination so everyone in your family will know precisely where to meet up if they are unable to return home.

There are also lots of emergency tools that could instantly turn your cell phone into a flashlight to help you navigate, or a strobe light that could be used to alert rescuers to your location.

If an evacuation is ordered for your area, the Hurricane App will show you where emergency shelters are located.

"You can find any open Red Cross shelter across the country," Meier says. "So, even if it's not hurricane related, if there is a wildfire in California, or tornadoes in the Midwest, you can open the hurricane app and open that section that says 'shelters' and you can get to one if you need help or help loved ones find one if they need help."

If you end up in a shelter, clicking on the 'I'm Safe' feature will immediately inform your friends and family that you're no longer in harm's way via your social networking sites or text message.

This could be very important if power to your area is knocked out, or if the phone lines are over capacity during some other non-weather related disaster like a terrorist attack or other man-made disaster. 

In addition to the Hurricane App, the American Red Cross has a Shelter Finder App, First Aid App, Earthquake App, and Wildfire App. 

Within minutes, the downloaded apps can be on your phone and Meier adds, "It's such an easy thing to do. Why wouldn't you do it?"

Copyright 2013 America Now. All rights reserved.

Additional Information:

The following information is from the American Red Cross:

  • The American Red Cross has created a Hurricane App, Shelter Finder App, First Aid App, Earthquake App, and Wildfire App. Click here to download these apps:
  • Be ready for severe weather with Hurricane by American Red Cross. Monitor conditions in your area or throughout the storm track, prepare your family and home, find help and let others know you are safe even if the power is out – a must have for anyone who lives in an area where a hurricane may strike or has loved ones who do.
  • Please note: shelters only show the current open shelters. More shelters are setup as disasters happen, but until then, there may not be any shelters near you.
  • Step-by-step instructions let you know what to do even if the cell towers are down and the power is out.
  • Monitor weather conditions in your area or those of loved-ones with location-based alerts for the U.S. and its territories from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA).
  • Let family and friends know you are okay with the customizable "I'm Safe" alert for Facebook, Twitter, email and text.
  • Find open Red Cross shelters in your area when you need help.
  • Stay safe when the lights are out with the Hurricane Toolkit, including a strobe light, flashlight and audible alert functions.
  • Prepare for the worst by learning how to assemble an emergency kit for your family in the event of power outage or evacuation.
  • Empower your family to stay safe and remain calm in an emergency by learning how to make and practice an emergency plan.
  • Earn badges that you can share with your friends and show off your hurricane knowledge with interactive quizzes.
  • See an illustrated history of hurricanes in your area.
  • Learn the difference between a hurricane warning and watch.
  • Know how to what to do about food and drinking water when your area has been impacted by floods and power outages.
  • Please update your app to the latest version as soon as possible! It address numerous critical issues with crashing!
  • Why does the American Red Cross need permission for the following features?
    • DIRECTLY CALL PHONE NUMBERS: We need this to allow you to call emergency numbers from within the app
    • CAMERA: We need to be able to use the camera to allow us to use the flashlight in Tool Kit
    • GPS LOCATION: We need to serve you hurricane alerts based on your current location
    • PHONE CONTACTS: We need this for the Make a Plan view to allow you to add emergency contacts straight from your address book

The following information is from Rick Schou, director of Emergency Services, Greater Carolinas Chapter of the American Red Cross.

  • Directions for downloading the Hurricane App:
    • Go to the play store application on your device.
    • Find the search box and type in 'Red Cross Hurricane App.'
    • Touch on the hurricane application, and then touch the blue box to install.
    • Click on Accept and Download. When installed, click open. It takes you through a tutorial.
  • The app allows you to add contacts, evacuation points, list pet-friendly hotels, evacuation point (to be used if you're not at home when an evacuation is issued) so family members know where to meet up.
  • The app is also useful in the event of a house fire. You can establish meeting points so if there is a fire, your family will know where to go. You can share your plan via email.
  • You can even take a test of your knowledge to find out just how prepared you would be in the event of a disaster.
  • The app also offers practical reminders like putting your refrigerator and freezer on the coldest settings possible so that if the power does go out, your food will remain cooler longer. Also, keep the doors closed and don't open them unless you need to remove a food item because that will keep the items inside cooler longer.
  • The app also includes a section with emergency tools which include a flashlight, strobe light, alarm, make a plan, I'm safe, and first aid.
  • If you need to know where any emergency shelters are in the country, you can find them here.
  • The green bullet simply means the phone has been synced to a particular location. The red bullets indicate open shelters.
  • If a tropical storm was taking aim along the East coast, you would see red balloons all throughout the southeastern states indicating all the shelters that are open.
  • When you click on the red balloon, it shows you the address for the evacuation shelter.
  • The icon stays on your phone with your other apps. Simply touching the app allows you access.
  • There's even a suitcase icon in the upper left hand corner you can click on. When you click on 'I'm Safe' it will send an immediate notification via Text Messaging, Facebook, Google, Email, Gmail, HootSuite, Handcent SMS, and other social networks, letting your friends and family know that you are safe.
  • This is especially helpful because if the phone lines for a particular area are not working, if there is a storm, or lots of calls that are coming into an area (during a man-made disaster like 9-11), it even gives you the option to add a safe message. For example, if you click on the Facebook icon, it will post a message to your wall indicating that you are safe. You could write something like "I'm ok. I'll call when I can."
  • The flashlight feature is helpful during power outages because it allows you to navigate around potentially dangerous debris you wouldn't be able to see otherwise.
  • The strobe light could be useful if you are trapped on the roof of a house and need to attract rescuers to your location.

The following information is from Kate Meier, Spokesperson Greater Carolinas Chapter of the American Red Cross.

  • The hurricane app is a great safety tool to have at your fingertips. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, you can find out what to do before, during and after a hurricane. If you don't live in a hurricane area, you can actually track storms as they approach areas where people you love live or perhaps where you live to vacation. You can see how storms are coming into those areas and how they are going to affect those areas.
  • No matter where you live, you're going to be able to get this information, track those storms. There's also a great feature on this app call the 'I'm safe' button. So if you are in one of those hurricane prone areas, after the storm passes, you can tap this little button and that says "I'm safe" and it can send that little message in a text message to people you love, it can put it on social media networks, Twitter, Facebook, whatever you're on to let people know that you're safe. If you are not in those hurricane-prone areas, you can track storms as they are coming in. You can get safety information to share with loved ones. If you have elderly relatives living somewhere, you can get them that information they need to make sure they are safe before, during, and after a hurricane.
  • There's a button that says 'I'm safe'. So, if you are in a storm-prone area, and once it passes you ascertain you are safe, hit this little button on the app, it will send a message out to people you know and it will even post it on your social networking sites. You can post with just one push of Facebook 'I'm safe' so that the people who know and love you know that you are safe and ok when a storm happens.
  • One of the great things about this app is that you can find any open red cross shelter across the country. So, even if its is not hurricane related, if there is a wildfire in California or tornadoes in the Midwest, you can open the hurricane app and open that section that says shelters and you can get to one if you need help or help loved ones find one if they need help.
  • Its important to have a plan in place. You would have a plan in place at your everyday job, why not have a plan in place for your safety. Download these apps so that you have them at your fingertips. Make sure you make a disaster kit to store somewhere in your house that's got non-perishable food, water, first aid kit, and emergency supplies. Have an evacuation plan whether its for a hurricane or a home fire or whatever it is that would affect your area. Make sure you have an evacuation plan and that your family knows that plan.
  • The app is a free download. If you are on an iPhone, just go to the iTunes store, if you are on a Droid, just go to your play store and search for Red Cross Hurricane App. Just one button and you have safety at your fingertips. Set your location to it, and set your loved one's locations.
  • If you live along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, you can set your location Outer Banks. If you have loved ones in Texas, you can add that location so you can get updated weather alerts for those areas as well. You can also connect it to your social media networks.
  • Once you download the app, it is live and you can immediately see if any shelters are open anywhere in the U.S.
  • The Red Cross also launched a first aid app. The Hurricane app was launched in the summer of 2012. It's just another way we can provide easy, awareness, preparedness and safety information.
  • There's actually a few other features built into this app. There's a flashlight built into your phone. If you open up the app, you can turn on a flashlight so you can see how to get around your house if you lose all the power. 
  • There's also a test you can take that will test your preparedness. If you were to take a preparedness test, I think we would all be shocked at how little we really know about being truly prepared for an emergency. That's also built into this app. Download it. Take the test! See if you really are prepared, and if you're not, you're going to know how to be prepared. It is so critical that you know what to do when an emergency happens. It can take days for emergency personnel to get to you if something happens. You want to make sure you can take care of yourself, take care of your family if something happens. It is critical we arm ourselves with that information when emergencies strike.
  • The 'I'm safe' feature is actually going to let people know that you are safe and it will communicate that through your social network sites. The Red Cross also has a website called Safe and Well so that if you do end up in a Red Cross shelter, you can go ahead and register yourself on this website that any of your family members can get onto see and they can find out where you are and how you are doing. So that is separate from our app because that is for shelter registrants.
  • It's so important to have that safety information and to keep loved ones safe and you know how to let other people know that you are safe.
  • One of the best things about this app, first and foremost, is safety at your fingertips, knowing what to do when emergencies strike, being able to let people know in real time that you're ok if something happens, being able to track storms as they are approaching areas where you live or maybe loved ones—where they're living.
  • The 'I'm Safe' button is so wonderful because with just the touch of a button, you're going to let people you know via your social networking sites, or via text message that you are ok. When a storm happens in your area, people who know you are going to think, 'Ok, how is this person doing, are they safe?' With the touch of a button, you're going to let them know that you are fine and its going to go to your social networking sites.
  • When a storm happens, you're not going to be thinking – 'ok I need to call mom and dad, I need to call my brothers and sisters, I have to call my friends, the nannies, the babysitters' -- you're not going to have time to do all of that. With the push of a button, you are going to let key people know that you're ok and that's going to eventually filter out to all the people who need to know it.
  • If you want to know more about the app, you can go to Red and search for the Hurricane app. It is a free download.
  • The Red Cross relies on the generosity of our community whether its because people are donating time through volunteering, donating money so we can help people who are victims of disasters, or donating blood. We provide nearly half the country's blood supply. So, that's a big job to have and that's why its important that people are rolling up their sleeves to help. Ninety-seven percent of the work the American Red Cross does is by volunteers. We are literally a volunteer-led organization. When there is a big hurricane, thousands of people are deploying to those areas to help, 97 percent of those people are volunteers giving up their time. Its so important that we have people volunteering. Call your local chapter. See how you can help. We have home fires everyday. We have hurricanes every year. There is always something you can do to help.  
  • One of the best things you can do for your safety and the safety of your loved ones, is to be prepared for an emergency. Get that safety information. Downloading the app takes no time. A few pushes on your phone and you've got the app, the safety information at your fingertips. You've going to know how to be safe in an emergency, you're going to know how to let others know that you are safe if something happens, and you're going to be able to help people you know who live in hurricane-prone areas or disaster areas how they can get to safety or what they need to do to be safe.