6 Surprising Ways Your Smartphone Can Keep You and Your Family Safe


They used to be a luxury, but now, almost every American home has at least one smartphone. With their ability to organize and simplify so many of our daily tasks, it's no surprise that today's iPhones, Androids, and Windows-based gadgets are allowing us to be safer than ever before. Here are some of my favorite ways to use my smartphone to keep me and my six kids secure! (See also: How Men and Women Use Smartphones Differently)

Weather Warnings

Last month, my property suffered damage from a tornado. Living out in the country, we have no warning sirens, so it's important that I have an alert system that stays with me and is updated in real time.

In addition to the "alert" feature on my phone that is tied into my zip code and sets my phone off when a storm warning is issued for my area, I can use any number of apps to check radar and even follow the social media accounts for the meteorologists for my part of the state. This past storm, I was able to get the kids into the cellar just in time to avoid softball sized hail and an actual tornado touch-down that tore 100-year-old trees out by the roots. I was very thankful for technology!

Tip: Check your local TV station's website for a link to their specific weather app. Most will be tailored to the viewing area. The Red Cross also has an app for a variety of environmental emergencies unique to your climate and region.

Traffic Reports

I remember the days of sitting in my car at 5:01 p.m. and listening to my local AM radio station for the traffic report. While it was helpful, it was no match for the real-time reports you can get from phone apps and even the GPS service available on most phones. While using your cell phone is prohibited while driving in my jurisdictions, it's OK to have your traffic app or GPS mode running while your phone is in your seat or placed safely on the dash. Avoiding an accident isn't just a time-saver; it could be a life-saver!

Tip:The Google Maps app does a pretty good job of alerting you to accidents on major highways and the interstate. If you don't have an Android phone, the Mapquest version works well.

First Aid

If you are a parent, you know very well that some kids have an insane desire to put everything into their mouths. For those moments, a call to Poison Control may be advisable, and, if you plan ahead, you can program your phone to connect via a shortcut on smartphone screen.

If the situation isn't life threatening, a quick reference to some basic first aid tips might be called for. The Red Cross makes first aid apps available for thepeople members of your family, as well as pets!

Tip: While poison is serious business, sometimes a game is called for. The Name Your Poison app teaches kids and parents that common poisons can easily be mistaken for safe materials — like candy.

Emergency Contact

Most of us don't carry around little cards in our wallet telling medical personnel or the police who to contact if they find us unconscious. Most of us do, however, carry around our smartphones.

If you don't already have an "emergency" contact designated in your phone's contact list, do so right now. Otherwise, your phone might also have some unique features to help you in a life-threatening situation. My Samsung Galaxy, for example, will automatically connect me with my designated contact with three short pushes of the power button, and it will record sound, take photos, and send along GPS coordinates until I deactivate emergency mode. Other smartphone have similar features in their settings screen. (Consult your user's guide for more info.)

Tip: Medical professionals recommend an "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) contact clearly labeled on your phone, but many rumors claim that doing so leaves your phone open to viruses. Snopes clearly debunks this myth.

Food Allergies

Not everyone is allergic to peanuts or pineapple, but if your kids are, it can seem like the whole world is against you. While it may be obvious to you that certain foods contain allergens, not all caregivers are savvy to the language of food labeling. Giving your kids access to information on food ingredients via a handy app empowers them to choose safe foods when they aren't obvious to everyone; Food Additives 2 gets good review from parents of allergy-sufferers.

Tip: Food allergies don't go away when you dine out. Allergy Eats mobile dining guide helps you make safe decisions when on the road and at your favorite restaurant.

Child Location

If little Johnny wandered off without his phone, tracking him down may be difficult. Since most kids carry their phones with them at all times (even into the bathroom), there is a good chance you can find him with a good GPS location tool. Securafone is a comprehensive tool that not only offers geographic location services, it alerts you when a child may be driving over the speed limit or texting while driving.

Tip: In the case that your child really does go missing, having a "kit" on hand with their info and identifying features can be the difference between finding them and not. The FBI offers a high-tech version of the traditional "ID Kit" for most smartphones.

Do you use any smartphone safety apps not mentioned here? Please share in comments!

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Guest's picture

Waze is crowd-sourced and kicks the butt of any other traffic app as far as I've seen. Give it a try!