It seems as if pretty much everybody has a smartphone of some sort today. Considering such, and that a phone is something that people tend to have on their person virtually 24/7 in today’s society, it makes sense to make one’s phone as versatile of a tool as possible. If it’s going to be in your EDC to begin with, why not have it work for you as hard as it is capable of? Do cell phones die? Yes. But at least in the beginning stages of a disaster, there’s a very good chance that your phone will both have battery and be functional.
Have there been issues discovered relating to smartphones and privacy? Absolutely. Unfortunately, I need my GPS, I need social media for my business, and I greatly enjoy having a rock-solid camera with me all the time. And so, I have opted to retain my smartphone. I would argue that since the majority of the population within the States seems to have smartphones, that there’s a good chance there are a sizeable number of preppers out there who agree with me.
And so, it brings me back to my earlier point: if your EDC matters, and your phone is something you will have with you all the time, doesn’t it make sense to have your smartphone be as fully useful to you as possible?
I think the answer should be a strong yes here, and started delving into helpful apps as a result. And here’s what I found. The apps that will help the prepper’s smartphone be everything it can.
Noonlight – If you’re ever placed in a situation where actually making a phone call may be dangerous, then you may appreciate Noonlight. This app allows you to contact 911 services by solely holding a touch-screen button when you sense danger, and releasing it when you’ve confirmed the danger. The app will send your exact location to emergency services, sending them en route to your location. If your daughter is walking at night from her work to her car and sees somebody in the distance approaching her, having her thumb on the “potential distress” button could save her life. Other potential uses could be in cases of physical abuse, active shooter situations, or the like.
Viber – An app that allows you encrypted internet communication with others. If you don’t want the stock messaging service on your phone potentially reading what you have to say, Viber is a great alternative. It’s basically an internet text message service. I have a blast using it, and have found it to be very reliable.
Protonmail – My new favorite email service. Protonmail allows you secure, encrypted email communication, which is in contrast to many other email services. And best of all, the entry level is free! If you send thousands of emails a month, then you’ll likely have to pay a subscription fee, but if you just send a dozen or so a week you’ll be able to subsist off of the free version.
Firechat – A mesh networking app that permits your phone to send and receive messages without the need for internet, cell service, or open areas for reception. Mesh networking utilizes Bluetooth to ping your message hundreds of feet away to the nearest node, which in turn pings the message another few hundred feet to the next closest node, and so on. As a result, mesh networking can even be used in caves, provided each node can “see” the next node.
Echolink – This basically turns your phone into a hamradio, so you will have to be a licensed ham if you want to fully use this one. There is a strange $1 activation fee on this one once you download it though, which the app developers claim is to keep non-licensed hams from claiming to be somebody they’re not. Regardless, being able to use your smartphone as a ham radio is incredibly beneficial, because if the fans begins spraying fecal matter, odds are your smartphone is closer at hand than your ham rig.
Repeaterbook – If you’re a ham, this app will tell you where all nearby repeaters are. So if you’re in a location that you’re not familiar with, Repeaterbook can help you to know what frequencies you need to tune into to get your radio message across. I’ve found it to be incredibly handy, and a way to add a further layer of security in always having the knowledge of what frequencies I need to hit local repeaters.
FEMA app – This tells you where shelters and aid are after a major disaster. Though as a whole I believe public shelters are incredibly dangerous post-disaster and are where you go to get sick, this could be of particular use if you’re on vacation somewhere when a hurricane/wildfire/earthquake strikes and you have no supplies with you. If you really have no other options, knowing shelter locations could potentially be very beneficial in such a situation.
Voxer – A cool app that turns your phone into a walkie-talkie, which saves a great amount of annoyance, if you ask me. A much quicker option of getting into contact with somebody whom you need to give real-time information to compared to dialing a phone call every 3 minutes.
Weatherbug – Personally, my favorite weather app out there. There’s a wealth of information on here that helps me to make daily decisions about what I’m going to do and when.
Shutterfly – I like Shutterfly as a cloud storage of all my pictures. I don’t really like Google, and won’t use their typical cloud services as a result, but Shutterfly I do. You need as much proof as possible on your side when you’re fighting insurance companies for proper reimbursement after a home disaster (e.g. tornado/house fire/earthquake/burglary/etc.), and Shutterfly is a convenient place for me to store that proof. Plus, I enjoy sending family photos to extended family with Shutterfly.
Scanner Radio: Police and Fire – This app lets you listen to emergency radio frequencies in your location as well as listen to breaking news on the air in your location as well, allowing you to get the intel you need as soon as possible. I’ve used it a number of times to learn what exactly was the reason for the traffic jam in front of me, and found alternative routes as a result. Aside from the value this can give you in a disaster situation, I’ve also found it to be incredibly entertaining.
Dropbox – In the same vein as Shutterfly, Dropbox lets me safely store all of my important documents that I may need to access after a disaster strikes. You can really store any type of file via Dropbox, but I tend to stick with documents rather than pictures here.
American Red Cross apps – The Red Cross actually has a number of apps for monitoring tornadoes, earthquakes, and the like that will let you know if one has happened, and where it is happening at. These could be potentially useful depending upon where you live.
Motion X GPS – Topographical maps worldwide. Allows you to track your trek as well, so that you can actually see where you’ve been. There is a small fee to actually purchase the app, but it’s incredibly cool, and having topo maps readily at hand is a game changer. How many times have I been out hiking/geocaching when a topo map would have saved me a great deal of time, effort, and frustration. Not to mention the degree of safety that a topo map can provide you. Rather than meandering along hoping that there’s no steep descent along your path, you’ll be able to find softer slopes, leading to less risk of falls. In addition, topo maps give knowledge as to where water can be found. It may not be clean water, but at least knowing where water is at can be a game changer for you as well.
SAS Survival – A cool, quick little guidebook to basic survival techniques. I keep the lite version on my phone, which is free, and full of basic survival tips. There are much more in-depth versions available, but they all are an extra charge. Still, that may be worth it depending on how much survival know-how you’ve committed to heart. Oftentimes it’s hard to remember just how exactly that particular deadfall trap worked, or how to tie a square knot. With SAS Survival, that information is always at your fingertips (provided you still have a charge).
Wrapping it Up
A smartphone can be a very helpful and convenient tool, even within the sphere of prepping. By downloading even just a few of these apps you can help to ensure that you are better prepared for disaster by having helpful tools close at hand at all times.
JWR Adds: I don’t own a smartphone, partly because I don’t live inside of cellular coverage. I also distrust the technology. I only own an older “dumb” flip phone, on a Tracfone pre-paid contract. Our family uses it only when we travel. I like owning this phone because I can quickly and easily remove its battery, to be fairly sure than it can’t be tracked. Perhaps someone can recommend a phone with “smart” technology that has an easily-removable battery.
I also look forward to comments on other useful phone apps, for those who are preparedness-minded. I suppose that an entire article could be written just on ballistics apps. I look forward to reading your comments!