Top 50 Emergency Uses for Your Camera Phone

Save Lives and Property

In an emergency, you'll need to provide and receive help, and after it's over, you'll have to return, repair and rebuild. Central to this is communication and documentation.

Your Camera Phone Has 2 Important Advantages

Any camera could be used for some of these things, but the camera in your digital phone carries 2 distinct advantages: It can immediately transmit your pictures, and it's probably in your pocket.

Top 50 Uses for Your Camera Phone in an Emergency

Below are 50 ways the camera phone can be used in an emergency to document, record, and relay important information, or to head-off a potential emergency. (Excerpted from

  1. Whenever the family might be separated, take last-minute pictures of all family members, especially the kids, and pets.
  2. Draw a map on paper of your route, such as a hike in the woods. Take a picture of the map and send it to someone responsible for your safety.
  3. Suppose help isn't available, and someone's sick or injured. If there are visible signs or symptoms, relay pictures to medical personnel who can walk you through whatever treatment is possible until help arrives.
  4. Damage documentation. In catastrophes, it'll be days before insurance adjusters get there to file claims. Document all damage.
  5. Report suspicious activity. Upload pictures of suspects and the situation to the police.
  6. "Here's the landmark." Gathering the family is critical. If you don't have a fixed meeting place, send pictures of where and what you're near so others can find you. Perhaps send a map as well. This also works well if you're lost in the wilderness and need to relay pictures of landmarks.
  7. "Meet us here." If you have a fixed rendezvous point, send a pic you already have on file so others will know where to meet. Consider sending a map as well.
  1. When stocking up in anticipation of an emergency, have a picture of your pantry when it's full, and then take a picture of it now, as a quick reference and shopping list.
  2. Driving directions. If you're trying to tell others where a certain location is, send a set of directions, perhaps picture-by-picture, step-by-step to provide visual clues.
  3. "Meet this person." If your family evacuates, send them a picture of the person they're to meet.
  4. Last minute property inventory. Snap quick shots of your property and to show the current condition of your property.
  5. "Adventure" journal. Take pictures to record what you do, where you go and people you meet during an evacuation.
  6. Situational severity. First responders will be overworked. They might not be available for what they consider a minor situation. Send a picture of how bad things are.
  7. Quick text messaging. You might not have time to type a message, and the lines might not be open long enough for a conversation. Write a note on paper, take a picture and send that.
  1. Minor traffic mishap. If told to swap info by authorities, take photos of the damage, people involved, witnesses and their tag numbers, and others involved showing their injuries (or lack thereof).
  2. Wallet backup. Take pictures of your wallet's contents (or important documents) to record numbers, and show that cards are or were in your possession. Be careful with this info as it's very sensitive and can be used for identity theft!
  3. Inclement weather reporting. Send a picture to the weather service.
  4. First Responder intel. The more first responders know about an emergency, the more rapid and appropriate a reaction they can make.
  5. Missing persons. Send a picture of a picture from your wallet.
  6. Relay property damage to or from neighbors who return home first.
  7. Help insurance adjusters find your property. Take current pictures of landmarks or unique damage near or at your property.
  8. Copy bulletin boards from an emergency shelter.
  9. Bus, subway or city map.
  10. Document your route.
  11. Record medicines or food brands.
  1. Record parking spot locations.
  2. Engine repairs. Send a pic to a mechanic who may talk you through a quick fix.
  3. Business or service function and hours. Copy posted business hours or listed service functions (and pricing) for later review and recall. You can also report price gouging.
  4. Child custodian. If you can't get to your kids at school or other function, relay a picture of the person who is coming to pick them up.
  5. Info on injured or hospitalized people.
  6. Hotel room number and location.
  7. ID your evac gear. Take a picture to prove ownership.
  8. Photo scavenger hunt. Give kids a short list of things they should take a picture of.
  9. Identify the close-up. Take a really close up picture of something while the kids aren't looking.
  10. Document your whereabouts.
  11. ID the rescuer. If a rescuer is picking up your child or pet, photo the rescuer (and the child or pet) and the vehicle they used, their name tag, registration numbers on helicopters, vehicle tag numbers or names of boats.
  12. Document your cleanup.
  13. Document expenditures. In addition to receipts, photograph the goods acquired, equipment being used, services being performed and the people involved.
  1. Property pics for retrieval companies. Some scenarios will see you unable to return home. Property photos will allow you to identify specific items you'd like retrieved.
  2. Evacuee status. Authorities will want to know who is injured, dead or missing, and who is okay and where they are.
  3. Overcome language barriers. Pictures make communication easier.
  4. Transmit road conditions.
  5. Relay traffic conditions.
  6. Crime scene evidence. People have returned to a home undamaged by a disaster​ but later looted.
  7. Too much on the screen? Should the TV flash pertinent information and you don't have time to write, take a picture of the screen for later review.
  8. ID for doctors or pharmacies.
  9. Emergency supply information. If supplies are low, people can send a picture of the types or brands of items available at different spots.
  10. "Last Minute List" items and shutdown. In addition to a written list, create a photo file showing items you need to take and steps to secure the house before leaving.
  11. Evac atlas. Create a "travel atlas" of emergency assets available along evacuation routes.
  1. Reaction plan for the reading disabled.