While man-made social media continues to bring us all closer together, making it seem as though the world is spinning faster and getting smaller by the minute, natural disasters appear to happen with ever increasing frequency, greater intensity, and with ever-escalating costs in terms of response and recovery. The tornado watches in the Mid Atlantic States this past week serve as a reminder that severe weather can happen any time. According to the National Weather Service, tornadoes have occurred in every state and during every month of the year.
In response to the rise in technology that helps us predict disasters as well as respond to them, a number of smartphone apps have made their debut on the market, including apps that update one on impending storms, notify friends of one’s safety, and apps that help volunteers know how to best serve a stricken community.
One of the newest such apps to hit the market is Find Me-Tornado Safety.
The Find Me personal emergency alert app is the brain child of cousins Tammy and Kim Fuller. Tammy, chief software architect of Echo Messaging Systems in Lincoln, R.I., developed the app with the help of Kim, a former FEMA official under James Lee Witt, and disaster prevention expert living in Tulsa, Okla.
Called the “first consumer smartphone app that provides a user’s contacts with the GPS location once a user has taken shelter during a tornado,” the Find Me app uses Echo Messaging System’s “Job Notification Service,” to issue Find Me Alerts via text, email and phone message. An extra bonus is the app’s ability to share status on Facebook and Twitter. The Find Me Alerts can be monitored by the contact as well as first responders through most popular web-based mapping software.
“There are dozens of good disaster preparedness tools that help people prepare for disaster, but Find Me-Tornado Safety is the first app that helps locate people after a tornado,” said Kim Fuller. “People are already on their phones posting Instagram and Twitter, so we thought we’d provide a tool that would give followers of the user peace-of-mind so they know their loved one has taken cover, and where. The app also gives the user peace of mind as they take cover, to know they will be found.”
Kim, along with her cousin Tammy, came up with the concept for the app following the May 2013 tornadoes in Oklahoma in which 50 people were killed, more than 500 injured, and more than 100 rescued from rubble. Some people are anxious about entering a safe room during a tornado, fearful they won’t be found right away. This is especially true for below-ground shelters, where the fear is that rubble covering the opening will prevent responders from finding them.
“With a few swipes of a smartphone screen, users can notify contacts of their last known GPS location as well as be monitored on most popular web-based mapping software,” said Tammy. “Find Me’s GeoRRS live data feed publishes live Find Me Alert locations that can be loaded as an overlay in any compatible mapping visualization system, making it ideal for first responders to have real-time verification of locations where people have taken shelter.”
In other words, first responders will be able to find you, even if your shelter is covered in rubble and you can’t get out.
Features also include a flashlight and an emergency siren and strobe upon activation for responders to hear/see if an individual is incapacitated. And notifications are delivered even if the local communication cell towers and other infrastructure are damaged.
The $2.99 app is available on iTunes and Google Play. It’s easy to use. Within a few minutes, users can set up the app in advance with contacts (including at least one outside of the geographic area to serve as a family’s out of state contact as recommended by the American Red Cross Family Communication Plan).
Find Me-Tornado Safety is now followed by Find Me-Hurricane Safety for Androids.
For more information about Find Me apps, check out their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/FindMeTornado, and follow them on Twitter: @FindMeTornado.