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With Hurricane Isaac on its way, you can now keep track of your loved ones who are in disasters path! The American Red Cross released its new official hurricane app for iPhone and Android users. And while it won’t be able to stop the awful conditions, it will help you be prepared with easy to understand and follow step-by-step instructions. So, before you rush out to the grocery store for eggs and bread, I would suggest downloading this FREE app for preloaded checklists, tracker maps, and alerts.

Here’s a look at what the new Red Cross hurricane app looks like

Fortunately, I have not experienced extreme hurricane conditions in my lifetime, but I have loved ones who live in areas more prone to such conditions than Philadelphia, like Florida and New Jersey. This app sends you real-time hurricane alerts for your area, or any location that you choose. These alerts are sent straight to your phone as soon as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issues them, even if the app is closed.  For each location you set to monitor, the app sends you hurricane warnings, as well as alerts for tropical storms and floods.

What I think is great about this app is the toolkit located in the top left corner. It comes with emergency tools like a flashlight, strobe light, alarm and an “I’m Safe” feature. This allows you to connect with others to let them know you are ok in the face of danger with only the touch of a button. You can personalize your message beforehand and share via Twitter, Facebook, SMS, and email.

You’d be amazed how the littlest preparations could save you from a lot of grief. Some of these hurricane preparedness tips are ones that I would never think of, like filling your car’s gas tank or putting your refrigerator on its coldest setting – so if you lose power, the contents will stay cooler longer. In addition to preparation pointers, this app has information on what to do immediately before, during and after the hurricane hits.

There is also a feature that lets users map locations and shelter details across the United States. You  can zoom in on local area and view details on each shelter, such as which agency is managing the shelter, its capacity and current population, the disaster event and the specific shelter address or location. It is quick and easy.

This app is useful even when you’re not necessarily faced with an alert or warning at the moment. Prepare for disaster by testing your hurricane knowledge and preparedness. There are three quiz categories (history, knowledge and prepare) in which you can earn achievements and share them with your friends. And if you are particularly interested in hurricane history, you can also look back 150 years and see how many hurricanes have hit your area. In Philadelphia, we’ve experienced 34 hurricanes – the top speed being 135 mph!

The hurricane app is the second in a series of preparedness apps the Red Cross is releasing. Several weeks ago, the Red Cross unveiled a first-aid app that has been very helpful to me in providing tips for treating major and minor medical emergencies. Needless to say I was excited to add another preparedness app to use in case of disaster. (Not to mention, many preparedness tips and tactics can easily translate to other disasters.)

Take a look at this video for more information:

(download here for iPhone and here for Android)

-Kelsey Crater

Heat accounts for the most weather related deaths in the United States. Although we have been lucky enough to have cool summer temperatures this season, these next few days are calling for temperatures of close to 100 degrees. And if you’re like me, you love seeing that big yellow sun on the weekly forecast, but its important you don’t let the sun get the best of you. I had an experience myself with minor heat exhaustion.

A few weeks ago, on a particularly hot Friday, I did the normal college student summer routine, which doesn’t include much but working out and relaxing outdoors. I started my new summer job later that evening and didn’t take into consideration the long hours spent in the sun mixed with working on my feet could end in heat exhaustion. As a result I became dizzy, weak, and even sick for the next couple of days. Now I know there are many things I could have done to prevent this.

In the heat, the first and most important step is to stay cool. Although this may seem obvious, it is crucial to prevent heat cramps, exhaustion and even stroke. Wear lightweight clothing and stay indoors with an air conditioner when possible. Plan strenuous outdoor activities like lawn care or exercising for the coolest parts of the day.

The next tip is to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeinated fluids if possible. Be sure to eat small meals and snack more often to keep your energy levels up. If you have access, go to the pool or beach for the day to cool off. If you do choose to spend long hours outside, use proper sun protection for your skin and reapply as you sweat or go in the water. This is important even if you don’t burn easily. Ultra violent rays are dangerous to all skin types.

Also, check in frequently on small children and pets, as they are more susceptible to heat stroke. Be sure they have the proper amount of shade and fluids and never leave your pet in the car on a hot day even if it is just for a few minutes.

For more on how you can be prepared and what you should do during a heat wave look at our checklist and be Red Cross ready.