Its been a couple years since the original post, and time and technology marches on, or given that its just been a couple years maybe it sprints. I'm happy to report multiple apps and mechanisms coming along for emergency messaging, such that folks can reliably send out and collect immediate status of their loved ones, if only they take a few minutes to download an app before hand, or register with Safe and Well. This post might give you some idea of the new capabilities - its not exhaustive, I have a Windows Phone and not an Apple or Google device, and I am sure they have wonderful equivalents that should be able to achieve the same thing from those platforms. I would encourage everyone to download and deploy these things in advance, and get your friends and family to do the same.

As a Red Cross volunteer and manager of mass care volunteers, I'm pre-registered for Safe and Well - in the event I'm caught in a disaster, I'll use it to notify my bosses if I'm available to respond or not. I think it uses something like "not available" instead of "trapped beneath 40 tons of stick built house" - but they'll get the idea. Now in 2013 we have plenty of online systems to manage volunteer turnouts including Volunteer Connection a web-based site, but those might not be immediately available to anyone. I'm also a ham and we have a system to notify red cross of my availability, just dial into a nearby repeater and give my status.

I am pretty sure Google has an app to notify loved ones of your welfare, someone else can contribute a feature review of that one.

Microsoft has one too called HelpBridge, info at Now that I'm among smartphone users I've tried it out. You can send status messages via SMS, email or Facebook to a number of folks - I have a largish local family and I think I ran into a limit of ~15 users per message. Its trivial to define new groups though - family 1, family 2, red cross, work etc - and send several emails or SMS. I tested it with both SMS and email messages and its pretty neat, messages went through 100% immediately, albeit in non-emergency conditions. These are just status messages - I'm OK vs. I Need Help - but handy in terms of immediate response to a disaster. There is also an option to share your immediate location.

For those outside a disaster area HelpBridge has connections to disaster response agencies including the Red Cross, Net Hope and Save the Children. The impulse to help others is fairly strong, witness the millions of folks who texted $10 to the Red Cross in the weeks immediately following the Haiti EQ. Personally I think that's a noble impulse to feed.

HelpBridge is available for Windows Phone, Android and Apple iOS. Signal your status, or offer your help at the $10 level, which is within fthe inancial reach of most folks, and often all that they are positioned to offer for remote disasters. Free of course. Pretty slick.