Twenty percent of American adults have turned to mobile apps for information during an emergency or disaster situation, the same as from a local utility or government's website, according to a recent survey from the American Red Cross. That makes mobile apps the fourth most-popular source of emergency information.
While apps trailed significantly behind the top three – TV news, local radio stations and online news sites – in terms of popularity, all the more traditional sources of information saw declines from 2011, while mobile apps edged up from 18 percent a year earlier. Mobile sources of emergency information were marginally ahead of social media and the federal government's NOAA Weather Radio.
The survey, consisting of an online poll of 1,017 U.S. adults and phone interviews with another 1,018 people in June, found that just 8 percent of the general public have downloaded smartphone apps that could help them in a disaster or emergency situation. However, the number jumps to 25 percent among those who are regular users of social media.
Among this small group, the most popular emergency smartphone app was a weather forecaster, cited by 82 percent of those who have downloaded apps for use in disasters or emergencies. Next on the list is a flashlight app (52 percent), followed by a mobile first-aid guide (31 percent), police scanner (26 percent) and an app to assist with disaster preparedness (19 percent).
Not many smartphone users go looking for the app store during an emergency. The most popular choice of action after seeing emergency information on a social media site, named by 76 percent, was contacting friends or family to see if they were safe. Slightly more than a third sought shelter or gathered supplies, while just 25 percent downloaded a weather or disaster-preparedness app after learning about an emergency through social media.