While the App Store and Google Play have their share of frivolous apps and games, there are also great utility apps out there that can serve more serious, possibly life-saving purposes. From first aid apps to medical emergency information, suicide prevention and disaster preparedness, here are 10 apps that could help save lives.
First Aid by American Red Cross (Android, iOS) (Free)
Why you can trust Tom's Guide Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
The First Aid app (Android, iOS) by the American Red Cross is an ad- and clutter-free first aid app that's a great resource if you're looking to learn about basic first aid, disaster preparedness, or need immediate emergency aid. The Learn tab provides users with basic first aid lessons for a variety of topics, accompanied by videos, diagrams and FAQs, while the Emergency tab provides condensed, easy-to-follow instructions, as well as a big red button for calling 911. Additional features include disaster preparedness tips and checklists, as well as links to other American Red Cross Apps and resources.
Blood Donor by American Red Cross (Android, iOS) (Free)
Another Red Cross app, Blood Donor (Android, iOS), makes finding Red Cross blood drives and setting blood donation appointments a quick and easy process. In addition to making donations easy and providing notifications and reminders for appointments, the app also incentivizes blood donation by adding a system of badges and achievements for your donations, as well as a variety of vouchers and rewards for donating. For a more detailed look at the app, check out our first impressions of the app.
People aren't the only ones that might need emergency first aid. The Pet First Aid app by the American Red Cross provides a wealth of information on potential emergencies and hazards for your dog or cat, complete with tutorial lessons and learning aids, quizzes to help you remember, and tips for keeping your pet safe in emergency and disaster situations. In addition, the app allows users to store their vet's contact details for easy access, as well as multiple pet profiles for you to store your pet's medical information.
AllergyFT (iOS) ($2.99)
Tourists worried about communicating their food allergies in other languages may want to give AllergyFT or Allergy Food Translator a shot. The app allows users to quickly create individual entries for you and your entire family with a customizable list of food allergies and accompanying warnings. These profiles can then be quickly translated into French, German or Spanish, which you can then easily show to local waiters so that they can guide you away from foods you should avoid.
ICE Standard (iOS, Free) or ICE: In Case of Emergency (Android, $3.99)
ICE or "in case of emergency" cards contain vital medical and contact details that could be important to first responders and emergency personnel, and there are a variety of apps that function like an ICE card for your phone. ICE Standard (iOS) and ICE: In Case of Emergency (Android) puts your ICE information right into your smartphone's lockscreen, meaning a first responder can check your medical information even without unlocking your phone.
Formerly known as BlueLight, Patronus is a personal security app that provides intelligent location sharing, as well as an enhanced mobile 911 service that helps dispatchers locate you immediately based on your mobile phone's GPS sensors. An "On My Way" feature allows users to share their location and route with trusted contacts so they can watch your progress on a map link, and when you arrive, the app sends a text message to confirm your arrival and shut off location sharing. Patronus's standout feature is its enhanced 911 system, which assists in automatically forwarding your location to 911 (rather than having to rely on less precise cell towers), or displaying your exact location to easily notify the dispatcher. In addition, trusted contacts are automatically notified of your emergency calls; lockscreen support, notification widgets and Apple Watch support let you quickly shoot out an emergency call even on a locked phone.
In a similar vein, the Red Panic Button allows users to quickly send out an emergency message to your trusted contacts to say that you're in distress. Users define their emergency contacts, and with a press of the red panic button (within the app or through widgets), the app sends out an SMS and email message with your address and location. Upgrading to the premium version lets you include voice, video, and photo to your emergency email, as well as provision for emergency calls.
FEMA (Android, iOS) (Free)
The Federal Emergency Management Agency handles the U.S. government's response to large disasters, and the official FEMA app (Android, iOS) is a great resource for disaster preparedness. The app includes a variety of preparation tips such as checklists and guides for creating your own emergency kit, as well as basic safety instructions before, during, and after disasters like tornadoes or flooding. Other resources include maps to Disaster Recovery Centers and Shelters, ways the public can get involved, as well as links to the FEMA blog.
Jason Foundation: A Friend Asks (Android, iOS) (Free)
A Friend Asks (Android, iOS) is a free app by the suicide prevention group Jason Foundation. It aims to teach its users how to recognize the signs that someone close to them such as a friend, family member or loved one may be thinking about suicide and how to reach out to them proactively. The app provides users with a list of common warning signs of suicide ideation, do's and don'ts for such a sensitive situation, as well as easy access to resources including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
MY3 (Android, iOS) (Free)
Where "A Friend Asks" focuses on training users to recognize the signs of suicide ideation in others, MY3 (Android, iOS) is targeted squarely at those who are depressed or suicidal themselves. At its core, MY3 tries to keep you connected to your core network, asking you to choose three close contacts such as friends, family, loved ones or your therapist that you feel comfortable reaching out to whenever you feel down. In addition, MY3 helps you build your own Safety Plan, asking you to think through and list your own warning signs, coping strategies and distractions, and your support network, so that you can easily act when you recognize your warning signs. The app includes a wealth of suicide prevention resources and contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.