To provide emergency-related information directly to the public, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA) and the state’s Department of Public Health launched an app on Wednesday, Sept. 21, that not only provides a place for people to get updates, but also for them to store pertinent information. The app, called Ready Georgia, allows users to create a profile that includes information like emergency contact phone numbers, an out-of-town meeting place, and work and school details. It also provides real-time hazard and weather alerts as well as a place for Georgians to track what emergency supplies they have on hand.
“Preparation is key to surviving disasters, and the Ready Georgia mobile app makes it easier than ever for Georgians to get prepared, just in time for National Preparedness Month, which runs through September,” said GEMA Director Charley English in a statement.
The profile creation and disaster plan features are meant to increase preparedness before a disaster. But in the event of an emergency, the app uses geo-location technology, which determines a user’s location, to provide the location of open shelters and show the flow of traffic on evacuation maps. “So after an emergency, you know where to go,” said Kevin Planovsky, co-founder of Vert, the company that developed the app, during a webcast on Wednesday, Sept. 21.
To provide that information, Planovsky said the app pulls in shelter feeds from the American Red Cross and is integrated with Google Maps to display real-time traffic data. It also provides the locations of FEMA’s disaster recovery centers so those affected by an emergency can locate the closest center.
GEMA spokeswoman Lisa Janak said all of the data feeds are automatically updated with the exception of information from the Georgia Department of Public Health, which must are manually created.
Currently the Ready Georgia app works with the iPhone, iPad and Android devices. Janak said the $30,000 cost to create the app for the Apple and Android platforms was paid for by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The app provides multiple types of alerts and information to users. When the application is open, it pulls in feeds from the National Weather Service as well as GEMA and the Georgia Department of Public Health. “If there are outbreaks … we can give information and let you know where those outbreaks are so you can protect yourself,” said Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Department of Public Health, during the webinar.
However, users on Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, also can receive push notifications, meaning the state can deliver an alert directly to the user’s screen without the person having to view it through the app. “An in-app alert deemed important but not an extreme emergency will not come through unless the app is open,” Planovsky said.
In the event that the mobile network goes down, users will still be able to access the Get Ready section, which provides information including local contact information.
Currently local agencies are unable to add alerts to the app, but Janak said GEMA will work with them to get their messaging out. “We do have information on there about how people can contact their local emergency management agencies, and they should always make sure to register for the alerts with them,” she said.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated.