With Hurricane Earl bearing down, you've probably stocked up on canned goods and bottled water. Now all you need are a few good smartphone apps. If you've got an iPhone, Android or BlackBerry, you can download a host of inexpensive programs that can help you stay safe. I haven't had a chance to try them all, but here are a few that could come in handy.
Apple iPhones and Android phones come with basic weather apps that deliver bare-bones forecasts. But you can install additional apps that provide more detail. The Weather Channel, the popular cable TV network, offers a good free app for iPhones, BlackBerries and Androids. Weather Underground's Who Is Hot? is an even more comprehensive app for the iPhone, while Android users should check out MyWeather. Both these apps are free.
For more specific alerts, consider the aptly-named iPhone app Hurricane. This $1.99 software displays the storm's latest wind speeds, barometric pressures, and features updated radar maps along with predictions of the storm's likely path.
Your smartphone's a valuable tool if you're caught up in the storm.. Apps like Disaster Readiness 2011 for the iPhone or First Aid for the Android contain detailed information on treating injuries and documenting property damage for your insurance company. First Aid is free; Disaster Readiness 2011 costs $1.99.
For the BlackBerry, there's USBMIS Mobile First Aid and CPR, developed with help from the American College of Emergency Physicians. This app costs $2.99 and is also available for the iPhone. Look for it in the BlackBerry App Store.
Most of the newest smartphones can double as flashlights in an emergency, thanks to light-emitting diodes mounted next to their built-in cameras. These LEDs are intended for flash photography, but can be programmed to issue a steady beam of light. Of course, this drains the battery, so use this feature sparingly.
You'll need to install a flashlight app; there are plenty to choose from at the Apple and Android online app stores. Some are free, while others can cost a buck or so. Flashlight apps are also available for BlackBerry phones, but you can get by without one. If your BlackBerry has a built-in video camera, just turn it on, and then hit the spacebar on the phone's keyboard to turn on the light. But this method turns on the video camera as well as the light, speeding the drain on your battery. Instead, you can purchase an app that will only turn on the light.
Don't have an LED light on your phone? There are apps that make the phone's screen emit a brilliant glow; some of these are free.
The author is solely responsible for the content.