Packing Your Digital Go Bag - Section 11: Other Tools

Section 11: Other Tools


Social media has become an important situational and response tool. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has developed a course on the use of social media in emergency management that provides an overview of best practices in the use of social media technologies in their own emergency management organizations.

Social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook are used to monitor situations as they occur and to communicate crucial information to followers.

Closeup photo of people holding mobile tablets and phones in their hands, presumably reading or searching for information.

Social Media for Situational Awareness and Communication


Twitter, the social media site that features 140-character maximum messages called "tweets," can be used to monitor situations as they occur by following critical information sources and specific hashtags (keywords or phrases that begin with the character # and are used to link tweets into conversations).

In addition to using Twitter for situational awareness, many government agencies use Twitter to send messages to followers about the status of the event, including information on shelter locations, evacuation routes, power outages, and more.

Twitter app, displaying tweets from NLM Disaster Info.

NLM Disaster Info feed on Twitter

Twitter app, displaying tweets from NCDMPH.

NCDMPH feed on Twitter

Twitter Alerts

"Twitter Alerts are Tweets published by select public agencies and emergency organizations during a crisis or emergency that contain up-to-date information relevant to an unfolding event, such as public safety warnings and evacuation instructions." (learn more) Alerts will appear highlighted on the timeline of subscribers and are instantly sent to subscribers’ devices as a mobile notification.




Facebook can also be used for situational awareness and communication activities. Often, an agency or municipality will set up a Facebook page during an event that allows safety messages from that agency to be posted to the community. Just as with Twitter, messages on shelter locations, evacuation routes, and other information can be posted. The event feature on Facebook also allows the agency to promote community meetings and activities.

Facebook includes a feature called "Safety Check" that is activated by Facebook during mass casuality events. If your location information matches the location of the event, you can "check in" on Facebook with the designation of "safe" to let your friends and family know that you are okay.

In 2017, Facebook partnered with major humanitarian agencies such as UNICEF, IFRC, ARC, and WFP to work on initiatives "to begin sharing actionable, real-time data that will fill critical data gaps that exist in the first hours of a sudden onset disaster." (learn more)

Facebook on a tablet or computer, with the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) page displayed.

Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Facebook page




Skype can be used as an emergency communication tool, allowing several people to talk from numerous locations, to share computer screens, and to plan response efforts on the fly.

Image of a looded country road, with flood waters deep enough to reach more than half-way to the bottom of a speed limit sign.
Image of a building under which the foundation has been severely damaged with debris all around.

Images or video being shared through Skype




Hootsuite is an app that can be used to assist with managing and scheduling posts to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

Hootsuite app, with the Compose screen displayed, showing various NLM social streams, including AIDSinfo, infoSIDA, NLM_4Caregivers, NLM_DIMRC, NLM_HIVplus50, NLM_K12, and NLM_OSP.
Hootsuite app, displaying the Streams screen, with options: Home, listserv sources, My Tweets, Scheduled, @nlm_Dimrc, Mentions, SMEMstars, NLM Twitter, and Message (Inbox).

Hootsuite can be used to schedule posts to multiple social media platforms



Other Useful Apps for Your Digital Go Bag

There are numerous apps and built-in smartphone features that should be part of every digital go bag, including:

  • Flashlight
  • In Case of Emergency
  • Drug Reference
  • Mapping
  • Flood and Water Level Monitoring
  • E-Reader
  • QR Code Reader
  • Trusted News Sources
  • Journals and Newsletters
  • Ushahidi®
  • Relief Central

Think about the tools and information you might need at your fingertips should you find yourself in a disaster or deployed for disaster response.


Disclaimer: NLM does not endorse any particular developer or product. Search the Apple Store, Google Play, BlackBerry World, or other appropriate app sources for your mobile platform.


Organizing Your Apps

Finally, once you have identified and installed the apps you want to include in your digital go bag, we recommend that you organize the apps into folders so you can quickly access the right tools at the right time.

Two screenshots of an iOS device. On the left is the device home screen, with several folders of apps including HazMat, Health, Social, First Aid, Prep&Resp, Behavioral, Libraries, Alerts, Mapping, and Other. The second image shows the HazMat folder expanded and including the apps BioAgent, CBR, Mobile REMM, WISER, ERG, TOXNET, and US EPA.

Tip: organize your apps into folders on your device for quick access


Key Points

In this section, we covered the following main points:

  • Social media channels can be useful for situational awareness and communication.
  • Your smartphone likely has other built-in apps and features that can be useful in disaster response.
  • Consider other apps and information you might need at your fingertips should you find yourself in a disaster or deployed for disaster response.
  • You should organize your apps into folders for easy access during disaster preparedness and response.

Other Important Tools:

  • Social Media:
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • Skype
    • Hootsuite
  • Flashlight
  • In Case of Emergency
  • Drug Reference
  • Mapping
  • Flood and Water Level Monitoring
  • E-Reader
  • QR Code Reader
  • Reliable news sources
  • Journals and newsletters
  • Ushahidi
  • Relief Central