Packing Your Digital Go Bag - Section 2: Apps 101: Know Your Apps

Section 2: Apps 101: Know Your Apps


Now that we have established the case for a digital go bag, consider this scenario:

You are part of the response team to the site of a major earthquake. You would like to use some tools on your smartphone to help report on the status of several survivors, or to view details about the earthquake location and impact, only to discover that you have no Internet connection.

In this section, we will consider capabilities and limitations of different types of apps to help you be prepared for this type of situation. We will also look at disaster health information apps and mobile Web sites compiled by NLM Disaster Health.

Double-exposure image of a man holding a smartphone over a blurred background of a disaster or emergency scene involving fire and smoke.

Internet Connectivity Affects App Functionality

Before you can rely on an app in a critical situation, it is important to understand differences between mobile Web sites, hybrid apps, and stand-alone apps. The key difference is in the need for Internet connectivity via Wi-Fi or cellular data service:

Internet access required Some Internet access required No Internet access required

Many apps require Internet access, usually to retrieve data from a server. Some examples are streaming audio and video, or files stored in the "cloud."

Mobile Web sites are designed to function well on smaller devices. They will not work without Internet access.

"Hybrid" apps have some features that work offline, and others that require Internet access.

"Stand-alone" apps, once downloaded and installed, are fully functional even when the device is not connected to the Internet.

It is important to update these apps when the device is connected, so that when they are offline, they are working with the most recent data.

It is critical for responders to know if and how important apps work without Internet access.


Tip: To test whether an app will function without Internet connectivity, try switching the device to Airplane mode. When Airplane mode is enabled, Wi-Fi and cellular connections are disabled. If the app functions properly in Airplane mode, it can probably be used without cellular or Wi-Fi Internet connectivity.

NLM Disaster Health List of Apps and Mobile Web Sites

The NLM Disaster Health Disaster Apps for Your Digital Go Bag page lists important apps for your digital go bag. Apps on this page are organized by topic area and include descriptions, links to the publishers, and links to install apps or visit mobile Web sites.

Selection Criteria

NLM Disaster Health selected the apps and Web sites on this list based on:

  • The authority and credibility of their creators.
  • Their usefulness and relevance.
  • Whether the content is current.
  • No apparent conflict of interest (for example, no advertising).
  • Whether the app is freely available (with some exceptions).

The NLM Disaster Health Disaster Apps for Your Digital Go Bag page is responsive, which means it automatically adjusts for different screen sizes, such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. We strongly recommend that you view the page on the actual device you are most likely to use during a disaster, so that you can download and install the desired apps on that device.

Screenshot of the Disaster Apps for Your Digital Go Bag web page found on the NLM Disaster Health Web site

NLM Disaster Health Web sites, Disaster Apps for Your Digital Go Bag


Categories of Apps

The list of apps is organized into several categories. The remainder of this course will review selected apps from the following categories:

  • CBRNE and hazardous substances
  • Medical and health information
  • Responder safety
  • Psychological health
  • U.S. Federal organizations
  • American Red Cross
  • Surveillance and alerts
  • Family reunification
  • Social media and other useful tools



Knowledge Check


Which of the following statements about Internet connectivity are accurate? Select all that apply.


Check Your Answer



Key Points

In this section, we covered the following main points:

  • Mobile Web sites, and many apps, require Internet connectivity.
  • Hybrid apps only require Internet connectivity for certain functions.
  • Stand-alone apps can function without Internet connectivity once downloaded and installed, but these apps must be kept up-to-date.
  • You can test an app's Internet connectivity requirements by running the app while Airplane mode is enabled on the mobile device.
  • The NLM Disaster Health List of Disaster Apps for Your Digital Go Bag describes important disaster apps, and provides links for downloading and accessing these apps on various mobile platforms.


Illustration of a tablet displaying several icons representing Disaster Information Apps and Mobile Web Sites, with a human hand about to press on the icon for WISER.