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HHS Lists Top Disaster Apps For First Responders and the Public

01/31/2012 -The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Disaster Information Research Center has published alist of recommended smartphone apps and mobile optimized Web sites to put disaster information at the fingertips of both first responders and the public.

This list features around 20 apps that provide instant information on disaster resources and medicine, and hazardous events.

Some of the apps featured: Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders (WISER), an app that can help first responders identify a substance after a Hazmat incident (WISER also has a feature that provides a map overlay to showprotective distance).

The AmericanRed Cross Shelter view app shows local Red Cross shelters, their capacity and availability.

AndReUnite, an app created by the National Library of Medicine, allows users to upload information for missing/found people to a database after disasters.

In 2011, after Japan was hit by an 8.9 earthquake and then a tsunami, emergency apps saw a spike in downloads. One of the reasons for the popularity ofapps for disasters is the immediacy of the information, Pacific Disaster Center director Ray Shirkhodai told USA Today last year. Because the information on many apps updates in real time, information about events can be seen on the app up to 30 minutes before mainstream media can broadcast the message, he said.

Another reason for their popularity is that they’re free and that the information is already on a device that most people have with them already.

HHS also recommends users look for flashlight, emergency contact list, and interactive disaster mapping apps.

To see the complete list, visit theDisaster Information Management Research Center Web site.

photo fromRed Cross