HelpBridge App Can Help Those in Need During Natural Disasters
By James Rooney, senior program manager, Citizenship and Public Affairs
When disaster strikes do you and your family have a plan? This week marks National Hurricane Preparedness Week, and while every storm season comes with uncertainty, there are ways to prepare and stay safe using the latest technology.
Microsoft offers several resources and tips to keep you safe, and out of harm’s way, during natural disasters.
1. Stay Connected
· Use technology to your advantage: During times of disaster, social media and texting are quick and effective ways to communicate with friends and family. Last year, Microsoft launched HelpBridge, an app designed to help people connect with one another, and with volunteer and donation opportunities, during any type of disaster. HelpBridgeis a free cross-platform mobile application (Windows Phone, Android, iOS) that provides you with the ability to send status updates to pre-selected contact groups via email, SMS, Twitter and Facebook. Through your phone’s GPS capabilities you can also choose whether to share your location in your alerts. Today, Microsoft released an update to the app including a new easy to navigate User Interface and push notifications. In times of disaster, Skype can also help you stay connected via the internet or a mobile device when phone services are down.
2. Plan Ahead
· Develop a family emergency plan: One of the best ways you can weather the storm is to prepare for it. Microsoft Excel offers several free templates , including emergency contact lists and family emergency plans. Remember to plan for senior citizens and pets in your household, and communicate this plan to family and friends so they are aware. Your plan can be accessed during a disaster by saving it to a cloud service, like OneDrive, so you can access your documents on any computer or smartphone – even when Internet access is not available.
The United States Department of Homeland Securityalso offers several resources and games to make disaster preparedness planning easy for the whole family, including Facebook application, bReddi, which helps you and your family prepare for emergencies. The American Red Crossand FEMAprovide extensive preparation guidance and status information for various types of natural disasters, including hurricanes.
3. Use Your Resources and Take Action
· Monitor your health information: Quick and reliable access to your health and medical information is important to ensure the appropriate medical aid during a natural disaster. HealthVault helps you gather, store, use, and share important health information for you and your family by creating an emergency profile. Here you can manage and track your family’s medical contacts, allergies, medication, immunizations, and health conditions. Your medical providers can securely log in and see a full picture of your history and medical needs.