Smartphone Apps and Accessories That Come in Handy During Power Outages

Lightning storm

This win­ter has been one for the books in terms of win­ter storm dam­age. More than 400,000 homes (most­ly in the Mid­west and North­east) lost pow­er due to storms dur­ing the final weeks of 2013, and cities like New York, Boston, and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., con­tin­ue to get ham­mered well into the New Year.

Thank­ful­ly, win­ters like this are rel­a­tive­ly uncommon―but pow­er out­ages still affect mil­lions of Amer­i­cans every year, and most of them are unpre­pared when the lights go dead and the heat shuts off. Emer­gency gen­er­a­tors, stur­dy flash­lights, a stock­pile of canned food, and a few extra blan­kets will go a long way. In addi­tion, there are sev­er­al ways you can use your smart­phone to ready your­self and your fam­i­ly for a pow­er out­age.


Flash­light Apps
The jury is out about which flash­light app is the best, but there are sev­er­al avail­able for var­i­ous smart­phone mod­els. Here are some the best, accord­ing to cur­rent user rat­ings.

Flash­light Ⓞ
Avail­able for Apple devices, this flash­light also fea­tures a com­pass read­ing to fur­ther guide users through the dark and a built-in SOS trans­mit­ter. Users have col­lec­tive­ly award­ed this app a five-star rat­ing.

Tiny Flash­light + LED
If you’re look­ing for a slight­ly small­er beam, this app uti­lizes the cam­era flash as its light source. One advan­tage of the small­er flash­light: it takes much longer to drain your bat­tery. Users have bestowed a 4.6‑star rat­ing on this Android and Sam­sung app.

Flash­light ∞
Not to be con­fused to the oth­er app with a sim­i­lar han­dle, this Apple-com­pat­i­ble torch fea­tures a dis­co ball, police car light-bar, and more than 30 oth­er dif­fer­ent light effects. 

There are plen­ty of oth­ers for all types and mod­els of mobile devices, and thank­ful­ly, near­ly all of them are free-of-charge. The best way to fig­ure out which flash­light app is best for you? Good ol’ fash­ioned tri­al and error―but keep sev­er­al on your device just in case your favorite one fails you dur­ing an out­age.

Checking phone


News and Weath­er Update Apps
Reli­able, up-to-date infor­ma­tion is invalu­able dur­ing pow­er out­ages. These apps and pro­grams allow you to track storm activ­i­ty and road con­di­tions, find out if repair crews are work­ing to restore pow­er in your area, and deter­mine whether you and your fam­i­ly should remain in the house or seek shel­ter some­where else.

Weath­er Chan­nel for Mobile Devices
One of the most reli­able news out­lets for up-to-date weath­er con­di­tions, The Weath­er Chan­nel pro­vides an app for Apple, Android, Black­ber­ry, and Win­dows smart­phones; Kin­dles; and iPads.


Storm­track­er Apps
There are many of these avail­able for smart­phone and tablet devices, and most cater to spe­cif­ic regions of the coun­try. Intel­li­cast for Apple devices fea­tures storm track­ing and weath­er fore­casts for all of North Amer­i­ca. Storm Shield for Apple and Android devices will elic­it storm warn­ings per­tain­ing to the user’s spe­cif­ic loca­tion (as opposed to oth­er apps that rely on coun­ty-wide alerts). Both of these apps have earned four-star rat­ings or high­er from users. 

TuneIn
Avail­able on vir­tu­al­ly every mobile and tablet device, this net­work of radio chan­nels from around the world is fun regard­less of the weath­er out­side. But when a storm hits, weath­er and emer­gency ser­vice chan­nels can be life-savers. Please check the avail­abil­i­ty of sta­tions in your city or town to ensure TuneIn will be able to assist you dur­ing an out­age.


Exter­nal Devices and Acces­sories
The apps list­ed above will come in handy dur­ing a pow­er out­age ― but as any smart­phone or tablet device own­er knows, the bat­tery life won’t last for­ev­er. In fact, you’ll be lucky to get more than a few hours out of it with­out recharg­ing. Thank­ful­ly, there are ways to mit­i­gate this prob­lem, as well.

MIPOW Exter­nal Bat­ter­ies
MIPOW offers 14 dif­fer­ent portable charg­ers for var­i­ous smart­phones and tablet device mod­els. No cables required. Prices vary between $25 and $70; please note that some will pow­er dif­fer­ent mod­els, while oth­ers are exclu­sive to one brand.

ZAG­Gsparq
This pronged device essen­tial­ly func­tions as a wall-charg­er, and the lithi­um bat­tery is com­plete­ly recharge­able. It’s cur­rent­ly avail­able for $39.99.

Hyper­juice Mini
Avail­able in 10 dif­fer­ent col­or schemes, this exter­nal bat­tery pack is equipped with dual ports to accom­mo­date two mobile devices at once. The Mini is avail­able for $69.95.

Final Note: A smart­phone app might pro­vide help­ful intel regard­ing storms, weath­er con­di­tions, pow­er out­ages, and alerts in your area. But if you ever feel as though your life and the lives of your fam­i­ly will be com­pro­mised by remain­ing in your home, please don’t rely on technology―contact emer­gency ser­vices or, if the roads are nav­i­ga­ble, hop in the car and relo­cate to some­where warmer and bet­ter lit.