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Virtual disaster relief

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Over the years, the world's only officially court-designated abusive monopoly has contributed some very nice, free software, and HelpBridge is the latest example. 

When you get in trouble, or come across it, you may be grateful to have the free smartphone app HelpBridge to save you seconds or minutes.

This smartphone app by Microsoft fits into the iPhone, Windows phones and Android-run phones perfectly, and is one of the best "just in case" apps ever.

The app has two emergency buttons that say (literally) "I need help" and "I'm OK". You will almost certainly want one of these phrases immediately after disaster strikes _ a flood, fire, earthquake, bad storm, street violence, you name it.

Or maybe you'll need both. And that's the beauty of HelpBridge.

You get the app downloaded and installed now. Then set it up, first and foremost creating groups of contacts that you already know _ family, friends, here and back home, and so on.

As soon as the earthquake stops, for example, you can hit the "I'm OK" button and HelpBridge will send out that message via email and SMS to all the contacts you've pre-listed _ mother, sister, spouse and all. An emergency message is posted automatically to your Facebook wall.

If there is chaos around you, and especially if others need help, you can hit "I need help". Your message will go out to everyone and every agency you have listed, so they can start doing whatever they have to do to move help to your area.

The recipients will know your exact area or address, too. They will get the closest street address and a Bing map as part of the help message.

If you're the one hurt, God forbid, same thing. The "I need help" button, presuming you spent just a bit of time setting it up, will tell more people, in less time, at less cost of bandwidth, to come to your aid.

Once you're out of the initial emergency, HelpBridge will continue working for a long time. It has functions to raise volunteer groups or money to help.

All this happens for free _ another way of Microsoft saying "Gee, sorry we ripped you off on Windows".

The iTunes version of HelpBridge is at (, while Android users will find it at ( and Windows Phone owners should go to (


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