Hazard App will help people respond to everything from road closures and weather events to tsunami, earthquakes and pandemic, and provides life-saving information during and after emergency situations.

The app sends official warnings and alerts, tailored to users’ locations, as well as step-by-step guides to help households create emergency plans and prepare getaway kits.

Information and disaster guides are preloaded so users have instant access, even without cell phone reception or an internet connection.

New Zealand Red Cross Secretary General Tony Paine says the app is a life-saving back pocket tool for all New Zealanders.

“We know disasters can strike at any time – you might be at work, on holiday or out shopping, and that the first people to respond to a disaster are the people who have been affected.

“We also know people are never far from their phones, so having this kind of information on you will help you, your family and community be prepared for a disaster and have a plan to make it through.”

Designed to operate in large scale emergencies when communication networks are under pressure, the app also allows users to send an ‘I am safe’ message to family, friends and social media following an emergency.

Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office (WREMO) is the first to partner with Red Cross on the project, but the app will roll out across the country as regional emergency management organisations sign on.

WREMO Manager Bruce Pepperell says his organisation has worked closely with Red Cross to adapt the tool for New Zealand conditions.

“It provides us with a way of communicating with people in our region, directly and immediately, when they need it most.

“The fact that this app is being provided free to regional Civil Defence groups is fantastic, it’s an incredibly valuable tool.”

The app was launched in Wellington this week, during a disaster simulation exercise by New Zealand Red Cross and WREMO.

The simulation showcased Hazard App’s capabilities by replicating a number of disaster scenarios, allowing New Zealanders to experience the app in action.

Hazard App was developed for New Zealand Red Cross as part of a global project by the Red Cross’ Global Disaster Preparedness Centre.

It is available free for smartphone and tablet from the Apple App and Google Play stores, or via redcross.org.nz/hazard-app.