Free Smartphone Apps can be Lifesavers During Severe Weather

By Erin Cassidy, Accuweather.com Staff Writer
6/30/2014 7:45:02 AM

Some severe weather events give ominous and obvious signs, while others can seemingly appear from a clear sky without warning. But as we've witnessed many times, especially in the aftermath of the 2013 tornadoes in Moore and Oklahoma City, Okla., severe storms can be swift and devastating.

Strewn debris from the EF-5 tornado that struck the Joplin, Mo., area, shown June 14, 2011, reminds of the devastation the May 22 storm caused. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is managing debris removal as part of the federal tornado recovery effort. (U.S. Army Photo/John Daves)

It's difficult enough to reach shelter when you are at home or at least in familiar surroundings. Imagine encountering a tornado when you are seeing a medical specialist located two hours from your home or driving into a hurricane's path while on a cross-country summer road trip with your family. You may not even know the county you are in, let alone where storm shelters are located.

Fortunately, you already carry a crucial item for severe-weather safety - your smartphone. Utilizing your mobile resources is an important step in ensuring you and your family's safety. Using an app over traditional media sources can save you precious time in the event of an emergency. "The information already lives on your phone; all you need to do is access the app or even check your home screen for alerts." says Brandon Marsh, Product Manager of Mobile Applications at AccuWeather.

The following smartphone apps were created to issue alerts and warnings in real time to maximize your chances of reaching shelter or escaping the storm's path. These apps help you stay informed and stay safe.

AccuWeather

AccuWeather provides a free app that works not only as a general forecasting tool, but also as a severe weather advisory. It pushes alerts to your home screen automatically if an alert is issued in your area. "It functions as not only an encyclopedia of weather data, but it also automatically alerts you to the most impactful weather," explains Marsh, "The AccuWeather app helps people make actionable decisions."

If the National Weather Service issues a warning for your home location, the app can automatically send a push alert to your device that will appear on your lock screen or in Notification Center. If you are away from home, you can easily check the area's forecasts and warnings by adding a new location to your saved list. To add a location via GPS, click the plus sign on the top-right of the screen, then press the GPS navigation arrow to automatically view weather for your exact location.

If you are planning on a road trip this summer, be sure to consult AccuWeather's Road Trip Planner to stay well-informed of weather along your intended route.

Tornado Twins El Reno, Oklahoma in 2013. (Credit: Flickr/Daniel Rodriguez)

American Red Cross

The American Red Cross provides free apps specifically geared towards certain severe weather events such as tornadoes and hurricanes. "Tornado by American Red Cross" and "Hurricane by American Red Cross" were created not only to alert users about incoming severe weather, but also to help them prepare and respond accordingly. Don Lauritzen, Officer of Preparedness and Health and Safety Services Communications for the Red Cross, says, "People can take action before a tornado strikes - even when they aren't paying attention to the weather. A high-pitched siren and 'tornado warning!' message will sound when a NWS tornado warning is issued in their area - even if the app is closed."

Other features of the app include an "I'm Safe" feature that sends messages to friends and family, a map pinpointing available shelters, a toolkit with a flashlight and strobe light and historical information on the past weather events in your region. The American Red Cross also provides apps with safety information regarding wildfires, earthquakes, first aid skills and a shelter finder. Access to the app's features means "peace of mind for frequent travelers or those with family in other parts of the country," adds Lauritzen.

Even during calm weather, use these apps to review important facts and preparedness quizzes to test and sharpen your awareness. Earn all the "badges" to be a veritable expert on severe weather and emergency preparedness. These apps are available for free on both iOS and Android platforms or you can receive download links by calling "**REDCROSS" (**73327677).

Local Weather Apps

Your local news station may also provide an app that provides up-to-date weather warnings customized to your region. Search Google Play or iTunes for more information.

To be not only alerted but also prepared for when severe weather strikes, these apps are essential. Lauritzen says, "The app allows people to access this life-saving information whenever and wherever they need it."

Make sure to download these apps today, and follow their recommendations to ensure your safety in the face of severe weather.