Attacks such as the one at the Navy Yard in Washington and a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, or a natural disaster like the Colorado flooding, sent me looking for smartphone applications that could help out in a public emergency.
One place to start when you get wind of an unfolding disaster is Police Scanner by Critical Hit Software LLC, which comes in free versions for Android and Apple devices. A $1.99 upgrade eliminates advertising and allows the app to run in the background. In all, it scans about 3,600 U.S. emergency departments in addition to scores more in Canada and other countries.
CodeRED Mobile Alert, also free for Android and iOS from Emergency Communications Network Inc., taps into the CodeRED Emergency Notification System to signal users of crises, such as missing-child notices. You can choose among various alarm sounds when an alert comes through.
Settings let you choose what sort of issues you want to be alerted to, including severe weather, heat, cold and marine warnings issued by the National Weather Service.
But you'll get the weather warnings free only for an initial 30 days.