The app alerts users to hazards like earthquakes, wild weather and flooding, and tsunami. Official emergency warnings are sent by alerting agencies, including Civil Defence, Metservice and GNS Science.

The app also includes information about how to prepare for emergencies and what to do after a disaster has occurred.

Other regions, including Hawke’s Bay and the West Coast, will begin using the app during the next few months.

Developed by the international Red Cross’ Global Disaster Preparedness Center, the app has been used in several countries and has helped save lives during recent disasters. New Zealand Red Cross brought the app to New Zealand, adapting the content to reflect New Zealand-specific hazards and emergency information.

American Red Cross used the app to alert 500,000 people during Hurricane Sandy, which destroyed thousands of homes when it hit the east coast of the United States in 2012.

New Zealand Red Cross Secretary General Tony Paine says the app will help save lives.

“At Red Cross, we take pride in being at the forefront of disaster response, and we know from experience that people who are better prepared are much more likely to make it through an emergency safely.

“Hazard App is one way we can help Kiwis be ready for emergencies. All the information you need to make it through a disaster can be carried in your pocket, on your smart phone, for free.

“We really encourage all Kiwis to download the app and make use of it, so they’re ready when the next big one hits.”

About Red Cross' hazard app

Hazard App helps Kiwis identity hazards, reduce risk and stay informed when they need it most. It alerts users to official emergency warnings and updates, and allows them to quickly inform loved ones that they are safe. Users can tailor their alerts so they only receive those relevant to their location.

The app is also preloaded with information about hazards including floods, earthquakes, tsunami, fire, weather and biosecurity risks.

It guides users through preparing an emergency response kit and plan, what to do during an emergency and offers step by step information to help people recover after an emergency. This preloaded content means Kiwis have instant access to all information, even without cell phone reception or an internet connection.

It can be downloaded for free from Google Play store for Android devices or from the Apple app store for iOS devices.

More information about the app, including frequently asked questions, can be found at Hazard App