What app works best to communicate during crisis, power outages or natural disasters?

I wrote this article in the 2019 issue of the American Civil Defense Association’s Journal of Civil Defense. Maybe it will help answer your question in the app section.

Useful Emergency Communication Tools
Ask yourself, “How would I communicate with my loved ones if something really bad happens?Most likely, you will use emergency communication tools, some that you have already, and others you could benefit from, such as those below.What are emergency communication tools?

They are hardware and software that connect you to your family, friends, colleagues and community as well as with first responders, support systems, and other family members.Plan for what emergency communication tools you need BEFORE the event to be able to communicate and it will make your response faster, better, and more effective. Learning and using these tools will give you a higher chance of successfully dealing with an emergency.

Have a Plan
Your circumstances and emergency communication tool needs are as unique as you and your family, so think now about how you would communicate with your family in an emergency. Identify the communications tools you would need to be able to reach them in an emergency and make a plan for how to set those up.Part of that plan must be to learn the communication tools that are the most useful for you and your family. Many of the ones listed below should be useful to you.

If so, set up an account and begin to learn how to use them. That way you know how to use it, have exercised it, and are more likely to use it successfully before, during and after an emergency.No one tool below is used by everyone, so use all or most of them to make sure you cover all the emergency threat matrix.

To Begin — Establish who you need to contact during an emergency. Make a list of them and distribute that list to all parties.List phone number, social media addresses, email addresses, for everyone on your list. Make sure one or two contacts are out of state. Also make sure everyone on the list knows they are on it.Identify a primary point of contact with whom you will work. Make sure they know your plan. Another option is a “call tree.” One person calls two more who call two more and so on. It lessons the burden on one person being responsible for making all the calls.

Emergency Communication with Local Officials — Local emergency management officials (police, fire fighters, emergency operations centers, public safety offices, emergency operations centers, and more) use all, some, or a mix of the emergency communications tools. Investigate those in your area and connect with them. Here are a few local ones I use.
https://www.facebook.com/MountAi... Mt. Airy, MD Police Department Facebook
https://twitter.com/MDMEMA Maryland Emergency Management Agency Twitter
https://twitter.com/MDSP Maryland State Police Twitter
https://www.facebook.com/CarrCoM... Carroll County DPS Facebook

Cell Phones Cell phones are obvious as we use them every day to communicate. Most of us have our loved ones and their telephone numbers in our cell phones. But cell phones require additional items in an emergency.For example, have an extra power cable in your house and car. Keep a charging adapter in your car cigarette lighter outlet. If electricity is cut off you may need to use the battery in your car to charge up your phone. If power is out you may need to use your car to charge your call phone. A solar phone charger is another option for a power outage.

Instant Message WhatsApp, Skype, ezTalks, Viber, Meebo+, Google Hangout, Kik, WeChat, and Messenger are examples of instant message apps and services. These and other instant message apps are available for both Android and iOS. They are useful and a basic tool for communicating normally and during an emergency.

Social Media For sending loved one’s emergency messages and getting updates on their status, social media is useful. When cell phones do not work or the telecommunications networks are overwhelmed preventing calling and texting, social media apps offer an alternative way to communicate. Below are some ways.

Text Message — Text messaging is a mobile phone service offered by phone companies (Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.) that usually have a 160 character limit. Android and Twitter — Twitter offers instant updates about what is happening during an emergency. This makes it easier to know what is going on and to monitor developments. It provides timely information you and your family can act on. As such, it is invaluable. When you have a Twitter account already in place, it's just a matter of using the existing media during an actual emergency.

To follow your tweets on your phone, you may want to text "Follow [Twitter handle]" Twitter's FastFollow has other options, like just getting the most recent tweet for a given Twitter feed. And you may want to have several emergency Twitter accounts, maybe one for alerts and one for information.Use Twitter’s hashtag (#) feature to follow information that you may want to monitor (#civildefense, #emergecymaryland) so Twitter keywords are flagged with a # in the tweet.

NOTE: Twitter’s strength, instant information, can also be its weakness, incorrect instant information. Always compare what various people and sources are saying to best determine what is really going on.Instagram — Half of the users of Instagram now use it as a Messaging App. Instagram allows you to private message other users on the platform using the feature called Direct Message. This feature lets you send messages to one or multiple people (a group).

It is a good option to communicate using Instagram during an emergency.

Facebook — In addition to your existing Facebook account and your instant links to family and friends, Facebook offers a new feature useful to emergency communications. Called Local Alerts (Facebook Media and Publisher Help Center), it allows you to send a Facebook notification to page followers who live in your area, whether they have opted into that notification or not. They are used for urgent or emergency information.Currently, Facebook Live is the only other post type on Facebook that sends out a notification. Local alerts are a valuable tool in emergency communications, one that should only be used to relay urgent information.

Emergency Communications Apps
There are a wide variety of emergency communication apps available you can download to your cell phone. Here are a few examples
Bugle — Helps your friends and family find you in case you have an emergency.
Life 360 — Establishes an immediate connection with your friends and family via text, email or voice call. It notifies them about your current location and comes with a panic alert feature.First
Aid by American Red Cross —
Offers users basic first aid lessons, help instructions, and a red button to contact 911, disaster preparedness check-lists, and other American Red cross resources.
SirenGPS — Creates a collaborative network of emergency management and responses where the entire community stays connected to first responders.
Patronus – Shares your location with mobile 911 service dispatchers who can access your location.
ICE — The In Case of Emergency (ICE) stores crucial information about you for responders and hospital personnel. Lists your contact information so responders know who to contact
Red Panic Button — It sparks off an early warning and vulnerability alert system, one-to-many communication the moment you push the red panic button.

Amateur Radio Amateur Radio (also known as ham radio) is used to communicate without the Internet or cell phones. Therefore, it is an excellent way to communicate when other communications tools are not operating. Also, you can take radio wherever you go! In times of disaster. Ham radios have reliably assisted communications in emergencies for over a hundred years. When other communications tools fail, amateur radio is an excellent option.
Two Way Radio (Walkie-Talkie)A two way radio is a portable, hand-held device that can transmit and receive radio communication. Even when cell phones are not working or the power grid is down, two way radios operate and convey critical emergency information. They are an excellent first use or backup emergency communication tool.With their push-to-talk functionality for instant communication, they are much faster than cell phones. 

They come with extreme ease of use, just the push of a button can transmit your message to an entire group of people. And, they can withstand harsh environmental conditions like heavy rain and dust.Two-way radios can send and receive text messages for quick and discreet communication. Lastly, the fact that two-way radios don’t rely on cell phone networks is a huge benefit in widespread emergencies, where reception may be congested or even stop altogether.

Drone with a Camera This may seem like an unusual tool to include with the others here, but it has proven invaluable in emergency events communicating the extent of the damage. For example, when a tornado hit my own town of Mt. Airy, MD, (https://poetslife.blogspot.com/2...), the video taken by a drone was invaluable to recording the damage done so homeowners and farmers could quickly file insurance claims.

Get Started Now  All these suggestions offer advantages as communication tools. It is important to set them up, use them, and know them before an emergency. I pray that for the health, safety and survival of you and your loved ones you take advantage of them. A small investment of time now will yield large dividends in safety, health and security when you experience an emergency.