6 smartphone apps to help fight Hurricane Sandy's fury

If you live in the Northeastern United States and are bracing for Hurricane Sandy's wallop, your smartphone can become a handy tool if disaster strikes.

The so-called megastorm (Sandy measures more than 900 miles across) is expected to have a major impact in highly populated areas, including New Jersey and New York.

Here's a list of handy uses for your smartphone in emergency situations. And don't forget to check out our tips on how to preserve your phone's battery life during the storm.

First-aid apps

American Red Cross First Aid app

If you end up in a worst-case scenario and need a resource on how to provide emergency treatment for injuries or medical conditions, get the free first-aid app from the American Red Cross (Android and iOS).

This app includes step-by-step instructions for first-aid scenarios and some preloaded content in case you don't have connectivity.

Flashlight apps

Hurricane Sandy is expected to knock out electricity in many communities. As a backup utility, you can download a flashlight app that turns your phone's screen or LED camera flash into an emergency torch. If you don't already have flashlight capability on your phone, Android users can check out Tiny Flashlight, and iOS owners can try Flashlight by iHandy. Both are free, but keep in mind that flashlight apps take a heavy toll on your battery life.

Battery meter apps

BatterySense shows you battery usage on your smartphone.

When the electricity is out, battery power becomes crucial and that goes double for your smartphone. To keep an eye on your battery usage, iPhone users can try out BatterySense by Philips Consumer Lifestyle. Android users like to use Battery Indicator by Darshan Computing and Battery Widget by geekyouup. All three are free (some offer premium upgrades).

Messaging apps

Cross-platform messaging apps are a good way to stay in touch with people inside and outside affected areas, if you can get a cell signal. Whatsapp Messenger, $1 on iOS and free for Android, can help for basic text messaging with anyone else who has the app, and there is also a group messaging feature.

Another popular choice is GroupMe (Android and iOS) that lets up to 25 people participate in a messaging group for sharing photos, messages, and locations.

Beacon apps

If you can get a cell signal and need to broadcast your location, an app such as Glympse, free for Android and iOS, can send out your coordinates via SMS, email, Facebook, and Twitter.

Since smartphones don't always get your location quite right, Glympse lets you include a message along with your location. The downside about Glympse is that its location broadcasts expire after a maximum of four hours, and the app constantly hits your GPS for current coordinates, taking an extra toll on your battery.

There are also dedicated emergency apps that offer similar functionality such as Red Panic Button, but many of these programs require in-app purchases to get full functionality. That is something you probably don't want to be dealing with in an emergency situation.

Other options are to share your location via Whatsapp, or a social networking app such as Twitter or Facebook to broadcast your location.

ICE (in case of emergency) apps

An ICE app gives emergency responders info about you on your phone.

Everyone should have an ICE app on their phone. If something happens to you, you can let your smartphone do the talking for you. Medical and emergency responders are trained to search your phone for an ICE app.

This type of app, available for Android and iOS, gives the responders a fast and easy way to know who should be contacted about you. You also can record helpful medical information about yourself in the app, such as medications you are taking or things you are allergic to.

[Related: Online tools to use to track Hurricane Sandy's power ]

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