FEMA App Upgrade Includes Storm Alerts, Tips for Survival

The new feature lets people subscribe to National Weather Service alerts for up to five cities, allowing them to keep track of friends and families in addition to their own homes.

by Matt Morgan, The Palm Beach Post / May 18, 2015

(TNS) -- In an age when people rely on smartphones, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is rolling out a new feature in its app to help people through storm events.

It enables people to subscribe to National Weather Service alerts for up to five cities, allowing them to keep track of friends and families in addition to their own homes.

“A lot of times people are interested in other locations, where they have family, where they have friends, where they have loved ones,” said Jason Lindeman, FEMA social media lead, who worked on the app’s development.

If a watch or warning is issued for any of the five selected areas, the user will get a push notification to alert them and then be prompted to a screen that gives them tips on what to do in the situation, Lindeman said.

Through the app, people can also report disasters, get information about the nearest shelter, create a customizable list of supplies and apply for federal assistance.

Creators are hoping that the new features will draw more people to the app and encourage them to spend more time on it when they get there.

About 40 percent of Americans have used smartphones to research government information and a majority use their phones to keep up with breaking news and local happenings, according to a Pew Research Center survey. About 64 percent of people own smartphones.

Future app features could include push alert reminders for things like checking the battery on smoke alarms and updating emergency kits to add items or switch out things that have expired, Lindeman said.

FEMA also recently sponsored a “PrepareAthon” in which it encouraged municipalities to host events on April 30 making sure the residents are ready for the upcoming hurricane season.

The events are designed to get people to move from awareness to taking action, preparing their homes, assembling emergency kits and getting ready.

“The goal is to build a more resilient nation by having people understand the risks and taking action,” said Allison Carlock, FEMA program specialist.

©2015 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.