A free app that will help Kiwis make it safely through disasters has been launched in Wellington today.
The 'Hazard App' has been developed by the New Zealand Red Cross and will help people respond to everything from road closures and weather events to tsunamis, earthquakes and pandemics.
The app provides information for users during and after emergency situations by sending official warnings and alerts, tailored to users' locations.
It also has 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.
Designed to operate in large-scale emergencies and 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.
New Zealand Red Cross Secretary General Tony Paine said the app was 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."
Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office (WREMO) was the first organisation to partner with the Red Cross on the project.
However, it was expected the app would roll out across the country as regional emergency management organisations sign on.
WREMO Manager Bruce Pepperell said his organisation had 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."
Today the app was launched in Wellington during a disaster simulation exercise, which was organised by New Zealand Red Cross and WREMO.
The 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.