Apps, Books, and more

Smartphone Apps

Apps for iOS, Android, Windows, and Macintosh that provide a basic means for communicating using American Sign Language. A must-have for responders who don't know ASL and have hearing impaired residents in their area.

Pet ownership and health records, how to report your pet as missing, disaster preparedness and more in this app from the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Official FEMA app for iOS, Blackberry, and Android contains disaster safety tips, an interactive emergency kit list, emergency meeting location information, and a map with open shelters and open FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs). A new Disaster Reporter feature enables you to submit GPS photo reports of disasters so they can be displayed on a public map for others to view.

Need to interact with someone but don't speak their language? Use Google translate to help. Available for both Android and iOS, and on the web

The American Red Cross has developed a number of apps, including these for iOS, Kindle, and Android:
  • Blood
  • Earthquake
  • Emergency (combines several emergency apps into one)
  • First Aid
  • Flood
  • Hurricane
  • Pet First Aid
  • Shelter Finder
  • Swim
  • Tornado
  • Transfusion
  • Wildfire 
Developed as a public service by physicians and educators in emergency care at the University of Washington and King County EMS, the Resuscitate application provides instant information on how to perform CPR, operate four commonly available Automated External Defibrillators (AED) and how to aid a choking victim. These are short video demonstrations (about 1 minute) and are compatible with the latest recommendations from the major international resuscitation organizations.

Available for iOS and Android this application from the American Heart Association teaches you how to recognize these symptoms of stroke: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speach difficulty, and Time to call 911.

Available for iOS and AndroidubAlert lets you report an event, and sends alerts to those subscribed. Alerts can also come from organizations monitoring events. All you have to do is report what is happening, where, how serious the event is, and how large the impact area could be.  Then, ubAlert checks to see who may be within the impact area you designed and is interested in the alert, and we send them an alert! 

NATO Phonetic Alphabet
Need to quickly and accurately spell tetracycline using the phonetic radio alphabet? This iOS app or Android (different developers) app allows you to type in a word or phrase and it does it for you. (In this case, Tango Echo Tango Romeo Alpha Charlie Yankee Charlie Lima India November Echo). 

WISER (Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders) is a mobile application designed to assist first responders in hazardous material incidents. For iOSAndroid and other smartphones.

Subscribe to podcasts using your favorite podcast app(such as iTunes, Spotify, Googleplay Music, etc.) on your computer or smartphone. 

From the Centers for Disease Control, these podcasts range from short public service announcements to interviews with emergency responders from CDC and FEMA who recount their experiences in responding to disasters and disease outbreaks.

Think of three good friends who are also experts in disaster response, especially the medical side, and you have the basic premise of these podcasters who talk about their experiences and questions about disaster response.

This Maryland-based podcast offers interviews with leading experts in disaster response from industry and government.

This podcast seems to have stopped being updated in 2013, but the episodes that are here are worth a listen.

An eleven part series in which each of the major positions in the Incident Command System is described and explained. Podcast 11 is specific to Salvation Army (SA) operations. The remaining ten podcasts also reference SA operations but are general enough to apply to all disaster operations, especially those with a focus on mass care, sheltering, and feeding operations.

Learn about the latest in earthquake science, prediction, mitigation, preparation, and response. 


Planning for Resilience: A Community Handbook for Reducing Vulnerability to Disasters, by Jaimie Hicks Masterson and Walter Gillis Peacock. This is really a textbook/reference for communities to engage in a process of assessing their disaster risks and how to mitigate such risks. The authors are from Texas A&M and have studied the multiple risks that face that state, resulting in a planning model that can be applied anywhere. Highly recommended to city planners, elected officials, and professional emergency responders. 

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, by Laurence Gonzales. Multiple stories of survival, near disasters, and fatal mistakes in multiple scenarios. A strong editor could have tightened the book which at times is repetitive with unnecessary sidelights. The lessons learned at the end would be a place to head to if you don't want all of the gory details.

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm Ravaged Hospital by Sheryl Fink. Short-listed on a lot of critics' list for best non-fiction book of 2013, Five Days at Memorial relates the harrowing aftermath of hurricane Katrina as it plays out a Memorial Hospital in New Orleans. A reminder to emergency responders that communications and worst-case scenario planning are key to keeping people alive, and keeping others from taking lives.Life and Death in a Storm Ravages Hospital.

Fukishima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster by David Lochbaum, David, Edwin Lyman, Susan W. Stranahan and the staff of the Union of Concerned Scientists relates the aftermath of another disaster, this one the earthquake and tsunami in March of 2011 that led to the meltdown of several nuclear reactors at Fukishima Daiichi, Japan. With a cascade of unanticipated events upon them, the power company, government, and nuclear specialist could not prevent a core meltdown and radiation release second only to that of Chernobyl. With similar nuclear reactors in the U.S. also located atop earthquake  faults, along coastlines, or near other natural hazards many think that its a matter of when, not if, Americans suffer the same fate.

The Big One by Kevin Ready. Currently available only in a Kindle edition, this fast paced novel imagines southern California in the midst of and immediately following a series of quakes on several of its major fault lines. The storyline intersects the lives of civilians  and emergency responders alike as they cope with a ruined infrastructure and how citizens will need to rely on their own resources for much longer than they realize after "the big one." Could have just as easily be set in the SF Bay area.

Ideas for Kids
Beat the Quake

Disaster Master, Build-A-Kit, and What are WEA's?
Three engaging games for kids from

Disaster Hero
From the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Monster Guard
Monster Guard is the first mobile app created by the American Red Cross that's designed specifically for kids. Follow Maya, Chad, Olivia and all the monsters as they teach kids (aged 7-11) about how to prepare for real-life emergencies–at home plus other environments–in a fun and engaging game. 

Ready New York: Kids
Simple games from the Office of Emergency Management of New York City.

Stop Disasters!
For older kids and adults from the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction in Geneva, Switzerland.

Recommended by FEMA

Film - Fiction
San Andreas (2015). Opening in theaters in May 29, 2015, this movie looks to be long on action and short on science.

San Andreas Trailer

The Impossible (2012). Story of a tourist family in Thailand caught in the destruction and chaotic aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

The Impossible Trailer

Contagion (2011). A good medical thriller that even scientists liked about an outbreak of a lethal pandemic and the race to stop it.

Contagion Trailer

The Road (2009). Cormack McCarthy's dark novel made into an even darker post-apocalyptic road trip of a father and son trying to survive and find life in a seemingly dead world.

The Road Trailer

Dante's Peak (1997). Pretty good science about a volcanic eruption in Washington state. Plenty of good action for people who like hot lava and burning things.

Dante's Peak Trailer

Twister (1996). Not a great film but one filled with wonderful special effects, action sequences, and facts about the storms that terrorize and ravage the U.S.

Twister Trailer

The China Syndrome (1979). The film garnered Academy Award nominations for stars Jane Fonda and Jack Lemon among others. It's notable for its prescience regarding the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster which occurred less than two weeks after its opening. The depicted coverup of nuclear safety at a fictional plant led to wide scale skepticism among the public about the truthfulness of the nuclear industry.

The China Syndrome Trailer

Film - Documentary
9-11: 102 Minutes That Changed America (DVD)