Disaster Apps

This installment of the SAMHSA Disaster Behavioral Health Information Series (DBHIS) focuses on disaster behavioral health apps for mental health and substance use professionals, disaster responders, and consumers to help them plan for, respond to, and recover from disasters or traumatic events. Professionals are increasingly using smartphones and tablets to treat and serve patients and survivors. Mobile apps and tools allow professionals and other responders to have disaster behavioral health resources at their fingertips and to document and track their interactions more easily and effectively. Consumers can use mobile apps to help prepare their families for disasters, communicate during disasters, and help with the recovery that follows.

The apps in this installment are available for free and can be used on most iOS and Android devices. There are apps available for both behavioral health professionals and consumers covering a variety of topics, such as preparedness, disaster alerts, Psychological First Aid, coping strategies, and responder self-care.

It is important to note that conditions during and after disasters like power and network outages may make apps and their data inaccessible. All information on smartphones and tablets may be unavailable in a power outage if there is no place to charge devices. It is a good idea to write down information you may need in a disaster that you would otherwise access through an app or another feature on your mobile device, such as a list of important phone numbers.

While many of the apps in this installment are designed to help people after disasters, they are not intended to replace professional behavioral health support following disasters. People experiencing disaster-related distress can get immediate support from the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline by calling 800-985-5990 or texting TalkWithUs to 66746.

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Related Resources

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U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Health Agency, DHA Connected Health (DOD, DHA, DHA Connected Health)

The Breathe2Relax app was originally designed for the military community but is beneficial to anyone to lower stress and reduce anxiety. The app trains users on the belly breathing technique, which has proven benefits to overall mental health.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (HHS, CDC)

The CDC mobile app gives users 24/7 access to timely, vital health information wherever they go, including information on disease outbreaks and preparedness and response for disasters and other emergencies. It provides automatic updates with important public health information and a variety of types of content such as stories, videos, podcasts, journals, and blogs.


Pacific Disaster Center

This highly rated app provides a global, multi-hazard monitoring and alert system for users. The app allows users to quickly view hazards around the globe or to locate hazards in a specific area. Users can get general information about location of hazards or tap on hazard icons to get more in-depth information.


Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian Science Education Center

In this app designed for children in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, participants help cities prepare for four types of natural disasters (earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and volcanoes). They are provided with extensive information about the cities and measurements indicating hazard levels, and they are given opportunities to take preparedness actions such as building or repairing shelters or reinforcing roofs. The app is available online as well as on iOS and Android devices.


U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (DHS, FEMA)

The FEMA app provides users with features such as severe weather alerts from the National Weather Service and information to stay safe, maps of disaster resources, online resources for applying for disaster assistance, and safety tips and preparedness reminders.


National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

The Help Kids Cope app can help families talk about disasters before they happen and learn what to do before, during, and after 10 different disaster types. The app also helps parents learn how to best support their children through sheltering in place, evacuations, and healing after the disaster is over. The app can also be useful for teachers and counselors, as well as for emergency preparedness professionals.


Meeting Guide

This iOS and Android app can be used to find nearby meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, a peer support organization offering meetings across the country and around the world to help people who have a current or past problem with drinking. Meetings may help people with alcoholism or people in recovery from alcoholism to cope with distress in many situations, including after a disaster. The app currently includes meetings from many, but not all, locations in the United States and Canada. Users are encouraged to consult local resources to confirm that meetings are being held prior to attending.


U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Center for PTSD (VA, PTSD)

This mobile app is designed to support cognitive processing therapy (CPT), one of the most effective treatments for people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The app is meant to be downloaded by patients and used while they are working with therapists trained in CPT. The app features tracking of PTSD symptoms over time to evaluate progress, homework assignments and worksheets, and reminders for therapy sessions.


U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Center for PTSD (VA, PTSD)

The PTSD Coach app can be used by individuals who believe they may be suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as their families. It provides users with resources they can trust, including PTSD treatments that work. Features also include tools for tracking symptoms, tools for handling stress, and direct links to support and help.


American Red Cross

The American Red Cross offers a variety of disaster preparedness apps on topics such as floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and an all-inclusive emergency app that monitors 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts. The apps provide alerts, as well as a check-in system to let your loved ones know you are safe. There is also an app for children to teach them preparedness for real-life emergencies.


American Red Cross

Available for iOS and Android devices, this app is a game that teaches children ages 711 about preparedness for disasters and other emergencies. Children take on the roles of different monsters in navigating through various scenarios. Through the app, children can learn about putting together a family emergency kit, preparing in other ways for natural disasters, and coping with stress.


Health Map

The Outbreaks Near Me app provides users with real-time disease outbreak information. Users can search and browse outbreak reports on an interactive map and register for automatic alerts when there is an outbreak occurring in their area. HealthMap is a group of scientists and software developers at Boston Children's Hospital who offer the Outbreaks Near Me app and a website providing online information about disease outbreaks and public health issues and threats around the world.


National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

This app can assist disaster responders in providing Psychological First Aid (PFA) to adults, families, and children following emergencies or disasters. The app allows responders to review the eight core PFA actions and match PFA interventions to the reactions of survivors they are serving. It also provides tips for applying PFA in the field and helps track and assess the needs of the survivor.


U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Health Agency, DHA Connected Health (DOD, DHA, DHA Connected Health)

The Provider Resilience app gives health care professionals tools to guard against burnout and compassion fatigue as they help service members, veterans, and their families. Once downloaded, the app gives the user a self-assessment to create ratings for the risk of burnout. Features include a clock showing time since the users last day off, inspirational messages, and tips for restful breaks.


University of Minnesota, School of Public Health

This app aids those deployed to respond to emergencies throughout the United States in maintaining their own physical, emotional, and social well-being. It includes checklists that help responders pack for deployment, take care of daily needs, maintain important relationships, and reflect on experiences. It also allows the user to create customizable reminders to ensure that critical tasks are not forgotten.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (HHS, SAMHSA)

Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and Android and BlackBerry devices, this app is designed to support responders in meeting the mental health and substance use-related (behavioral health) needs of disaster-affected communities. It can be used to access preparedness and response information and to find local behavioral health services for referrals.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (HHS, SAMHSA)

This award-winning app equips providers with education and support resources to help assess a patients risk of suicide. It also provides communication techniques for speaking with an at-risk patient and their families, as well as a behavioral health treatment locator for referring patients to treatment and community resources. It is compatible with both iOS and Android devices.


Massachusetts Department of Public Health

This app is intended for volunteers and staff responding to emergencies to help them to communicate with people with special communication needs, including people with cognitive disabilities, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, people with limited English proficiency, and anyone experiencing challenges in verbal communication during an emergency. While it was developed in Massachusetts, the app can be used across the United States in shelter environments, emergency dispensing sites, and door-to-door outreach. It includes a language translation feature.


Massachusetts Department of Public Health

This app is intended to be used after a mass casualty event. Disaster relief professionals can use the app to help them communicate with family members who have experienced the event, as well as people with special communication needs (people with cognitive disabilities, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, people with limited English proficiency, and anyone else having trouble communicating verbally). It suggests what to say to loved ones throughout the interaction and includes a language translation feature. Although it was developed in Massachusetts, the app can be used across the United States.


U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Health Agency, DHA Connected Health (DOD, DHA, DHA Connected Health)

The award-winning Tactical Breather app can be used to gain control over physiological and psychological responses to stress. Although the techniques were developed for soldiers in intense combat situations, any person can benefit from the techniques taught in the app.


Zello, Inc.

Zello is an app that adds a walkie-talkie feature to smartphones, tablets, and personal computers. Using Zello, people can communicate with friends and teams over Wi-Fi or cellular networks by adding contacts or creating a channel. Different groups have created channels to communicate after disasters. Zello can run on iOS, Android, and BlackBerry devices.

Last Updated: 06/04/2018