Microsoft has unveiled  a new app called HelpBridge, which it claims will help people connect with those that matter most to them during a natural disaster.
The app, which is available on Windows Phone, Android and iOS is based on Windows Azure and has two basic settings. The first allows you to let your friends and loved ones know you’re okay during a natural disaster via an SMS, email or a message to your Facebook wall. The second meanwhile uses the same avenues to let people know you need help.
HelpBridge reportedly enables you to build a list of people who you would want to contact in an emergency. “With one swipe you can let all those people know if you’re OK or if you need help via SMS, email and/or Facebook,” says Microsoft. The alert can also optionally provide your exact location via your phone’s GPS capabilities.
Microsoft has also built facilities in the app that provide people with ways to help out in the aftermath of natural disasters by volunteering and donating goods and money.
“When disasters occur, the first thing people who were impacted want to do is to reach friends and family,” said James Rooney, program manager for Microsoft Citizenship’s Technology for Good program, in a statement .
Although the app is currently only available in the US, Microsoft hopes that it will eventually be able to spread its us around the globe. Rooney says the company was inspired by how technology sprung up as a means of help people connect with friends, family and relief efforts during natural disasters such as those that hit Haiti and Japan. He noted however that "those technologies tended to be built quickly, were specific to the disaster region, and became obsolete in the weeks and months after a disaster".
HelpBridge, he says, is designed to be "disaster agnostic" and, as is the case with most large-scale apps, will be updated as time goes along.
Obviously the ideal is to set up the app long before a disaster hits. “When disaster strikes, you don’t want to be fumbling with your phone and trying to find your mom’s number,” says Rooney. “Spending a little time now can pay off in spades.”