“It doesn’t require you to look at a map or distinguish between different colors or anything like that,” Portie said. “It just says you’re at high or minimal risk and here are a couple of steps you can do this week or get up from the couch now and do. If you have any other questions, there’s a mechanism in there to shoot out an email to us to come down and follow-up.”

In addition, Prepared.ly features a resource page so that users wanting more detailed technical information can visit TxWRAP or contact Portie directly. He’ll schedule home visits in order to provide suggestions on how to better prepare a home or an entire community from wildfires.

Future Enhancements

Austin communities have been a big part of Prepared.ly’s development. Before the official launch in July, the program was online and active for a couple of months. Portie had two or three neighborhoods use the application on a limited basis to provide feedback on what other features they’d like to see incorporated.

Portie said one of the biggest things he’s trying to do is add more preparedness tasks that residents can do, and possibly add a FAQ section to the application. A Spanish version of Prepared.ly is also under consideration.

Moore added that she’s received a suggestion to make Prepared.ly more of a neighborhood social tool that can connect with Facebook so that users can make defined groups. But she wasn’t sure that was the right direction to take the application.

“We’re kind of concerned that it might be problematic,” Moore said. “If people can see what progress you’re making and you’re neighbors can see what you’re doing [in regard to wildfire preparedness] … it may not be well received.”

A mobile version of Prepared.ly is under consideration. Right now, the application is optimized for the Web and while it can be accessed using a mobile browser, there is no stand-alone app available for download.

That may change in the future, but Moore wasn’t optimistic about it. Some residents have asked for an iPhone app, but Moore has concerns over whether Austin would have the staff to maintain an iPhone app to Apple’s specifications after her and Merante’s CfA fellowships conclude in November.

“Since it’s a homeowner tool, I assumed most owners will be at home, so it hasn’t been the first priority,” Moore said of designing a dedicated mobile app for Prepared.ly. “But I do think it’d be really great to make it a native app. We’ll just have to see how it goes as we move forward.”

Brian Heaton  | 

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.