Every year, thousands of disasters – small and large – occur around the world. One of the first things that goes through our minds when this happens is “I hope everything is all right with my family and friends who live in the affected area!” The next question that runs through our minds is “What can I do to help those affected?” These are the two questions that HelpBridge, a solution developed by Microsoft, was built to help answer.
There is an old saying in the emergency response field that emergency preparedness starts at home. The first thing any first responder should do is prepare his or her own family for any potential emergencies. A first responder can’t help others if they are unsure of their own family's safety. To prepare their families for emergencies, first responders set up a predetermined way to communication with their families in the event of an emergency; they quicker they can confirm their loved ones’ safety, the faster they can begin to focus on helping others. In the past this usually involved establishing an out-of-state contact person (since it is often easier to reach people outside of the affected area than it is reaching people inside the disaster zone) and a meeting point. While both these practices are still very relevant, social networks and text messages supply additional communication channels that can be utilized in emergencies. The HelpBridge app makes the process of contacting your loved ones extremely quick. With just a touch of a screen, users can push a “I’m OK” or a “I need help” message to preloaded emergency contact lists; this message can be sent by e-mail, SMS or Facebook – taking advantage of all the viable communication options and making it easy for family members to find out their loved ones’ statuses.
If someone thinks the HelpBridge application is irrelevant because he or she is outside the danger zone, he or she is overlooking that there always is the potential for a disaster to hit even the best-prepared or most unlikely location. Do your part in being ready for an unexpected emergency by downloading HelpBridge to your smartphone, and sharing it with your friends and family.
As mentioned earlier, HelpBridge is a useful application that can even be used in the absence of emergency. With partnerships with GuideStar, AidMatrix, Mobile Giving Foundation, Network for Good, NetHope and VolunteerMatch, HelpBridge users can use their app to find opportunities to donate their time, requested goods or money to top organizations engaged in disaster relief work. Dividing into separate tabs, you can browse current campaigns – your favorites, text to give, paypal, goods and volunteer – and learn more about opportunities to help others right now.
Downloading the app is simple, and free! Just log in with your Microsoft or Facebook account and identify your emergency contacts from your digital phonebook. The application is available in the Windows Phone marketplace, Google Play and iTunes.