Jan 17, 2013 10:19 AM EST
Microsoft has released a new app powered by Windows Azure called HelpBridge that can be used as a communication tool and a lifeline during a disaster.
The app is available now for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, and can be downloaded from the Google Play Store, the Apple App Store, and the Windows Phone Store.
In an official post titled "Get Help. Give Help. Connect with loved ones," Microsoft said the app will help users to "connect quickly with loved ones during a time of disaster, discover and donate to organizations involved in disaster response work, and find opportunities to volunteer."
Developed by Microsoft Citizenship's Technology for Good program, HelpBridge offers a mobile notification system with which smartphone users can create and keep lists of friends and family members whom they would want to alert in an emergency or natural disaster.
In the event of a mishap, the app will quickly notify those contacts en masse via email and text to let your loved ones know you're safe or require help. It further posts an emergency message on your Facebook Wall. Users can include their GPS coordinates so that the recipients of the message will get to know your location and the circumstances surrounding you. Users can customize the basic messages "I need help" and "I'm okay."
When disaster strikes, you don't want to be fumbling with your phone and trying to find your mom's number," said Tony Surma, chief technology officer for Microsoft's Disaster Response team. "Spending a little time now can pay off in spades."
In addition, users can support the relief and recovery efforts through another HelpBridge feature that streamlines various options of donating funds and goods post-emergency. It even offers different locations where users can volunteer for relief works. You can donate money and supplies via text message or PayPal to charity organizations like CARE, Global Giving and American Red Cross.
"We are grateful to our partner Microsoft who understands the importance of connecting loved ones after disasters and provides ways for individuals to donate their time and dollars to help those in need through the Red Cross," said Neal Litvack, Chief Development Officer of the American Red Cross.
However, surprisingly Microsoft chose not to include Twitter in the service despite the fact that the micro-blogging Web site plays a major role in spreading the news in disasters. Nonetheless, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, HelpBridge is an app worth downloading.
Here is a quick demo on how HelpBridge works on Windows Phone 8:
[Source: Microsoft Corporate Citizenship Blog]