emergency

If you’re in California today, you may have heard an AMBER alert go off on your phone. If so, it probably really caught your attention. AMBER stands for America's Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response Alerts, named after the late Amber Hagerman, and they are part of the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system on US and other carriers.

With Windows Phone 8 (and iOS and certain Android devices), users can go into their settings to enable or disable such notifications, or select which ones they want to receive. What types are there? What do they mean? We’ll explain.

But first, let’s tell you how to find them, as they’re kind of buried in the Windows Phone menu system.

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One benefit of staying healthy and fit during Fitness Month and beyond is being better prepared in dealing with emergency situations that may jeopardize your health and well being. Emergency Kit for Windows Phone 8 is designed to help you make it through the these times of crisis by providing emergency first aid information.

The Kit contains information on how to respond to allergic reactions, snake bites, broken bones and even how to jump start your vehicle. Emergency Kit is a little on the condensed side but has some nice features.

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HelpBridge is a new Windows Phone app from Microsoft that is designed to help you get through times of emergency and find resources to help those in need.

You'll have to create a HelpBridge account based on your Facebook or Microsoft Account. As you create your account, you add emergency contacts that you can contact when you need help or just to let them know you're alright. When you do reach out for help or let everyone know your okay, the app will send a brief message and map of your location via email, sms to your contact group and there's even a way to post the message on Facebook.

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Microsoft reportedly has begun a private beta called Microsoft Vine that will keep you and your friends and family in the know in case of natural disaster.

What we have here is a fairly sexy aggregator of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – 20,000 news sources, NOAA, Twitter and public safety announcements. When the fit hits the shan, you need to be able to alert others that you're OK. And Vine would do so via a desktop client, text message, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter.

However, "in the know" may be a bit of a misnomer. See, here's the thing about a natural disaster: Chances are if you're in one, you won't have power. And wireless carriers are getting better at generator backups (you should see the press releases we get anytime something bad's about to happen), but I can remember not having any signal – GSM, CDMA, landline or carrier pigeon – for several days after hurricane Ivan in September 2004. (Bad enough when you have family worried about you, and even worse if you're trying to get married that weekend.) So if the infrastructure's not there for you to get the word out, this could all be a moot point. (And Twitter integration could well prove to be the linchpin now – remember that.)

But this is 2009. This is post-Katrina. And we've learned from our mistakes. And Microsoft Vine could well be an excellent way to get word out that you're still ticking. Let's hope they open it up before the summer silly season.

Check out more about Vine over at Techcrunch

Update: You can learn more and sign up to get a beta invite at Vine.net.

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Review: Cellet Emergency Charger

In my line of work, I travel a lot. It may be just a long day away from the office with local driving, or an 11-hour cross-country trip with three airplanes and two airports. I also do a lot of camping and fishing, which pose obvious power-availability challenges. No matter what, I have learned to have as many emergency power options as possible. But what if you could top off your phone’s battery with a regular alkaline AA battery? 

That is exactly what Cellet offers with its emergency battery charger. For $14.95, if you find that you are in a situation where you need it, you would probably gladly pay twice that… as long as it really worked. I put it to the test. To find out if this is a flashy gizmo with no punch or an indispensable item anyone who travels MUST have, then jump on inside and read the full review… 
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