Mobile Disaster App Prepares the Public for the Worst

The Insurance Information Institute’s Your Plan app features 11 preloaded checklists.

by / August 27, 2012
Photo from Shutterstock

A new mobile app helps citizens prepare for potential disasters, the latest threat-remediation strategy from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) that could save residents and emergency managers time and money when catastrophe occurs.

The nonprofit announced its Your Plan app for Apple devices on Aug. 14, touting its set of user-friendly features. They allow consumers to categorize actions into custom checklists and mark off the steps they’d take if faced with a flood, fire, earthquake or other chaotic event.

Brenda O’Connor, IBHS senior vice president of communications, thinks that this product will be a boon for consumers with mobile gadgets. “Millions of people are using iPhones, and if they’re on-the-go and they think, ‘Hey, I need to figure out what to do. I just heard there’s a hurricane coming,’ there’s our app,” she said.

The app comes with 11 preloaded checklists with steps to help people prepare for the worst. They also create their own custom checklists from scratch, setting due dates, charting their progress and taking notes along the way. These checklists are also shareable, and users access local emergency response information via the Google Crisis Response feed functionality built into the app.

“We didn’t want to include information that was really complicated or might require a lot more work than the average resident was willing to put in,” O’Connor said. “So we took a lot of other information that we’ve already developed for disaster preparedness on a number of different hazards.”

The Insurance Information Institute (III) developed the app and asked the IBHS to supply the disaster preparedness content that populates it. The III contracted with New York-based design firm Built by the Factory for the technical end.

The journey began last year when representatives at the III came up with the idea. “We felt that there was a space for a good solid checklist app for preparing for a disaster, and we wanted to start with this,” said Andrea Basora, the III’s senior vice president of digital communications.

According to O’Connor, the organizations will likely need about a year to gauge the app’s performance and develop for additional platforms like Android. A year should be enough time for the public to experience a range of disasters and use the technology accordingly. The exact assessment methods haven’t been determined, but O’Connor expects that users will be surveyed to discern their feelings.

“Actually physically going through the steps of checking off tasks that you need to get done before a certain date is a really great way of making sure you actually go through the process,” Basora said.

Although the app hasn’t received many reviews yet, the few that have been posted online are positive. One user commented: “The checklists make it easy to identify what you need to do and the reminders keep you on track to finish what you started. This is really important with all of the disasters hitting everywhere.”

Hilton Collins

Hilton Collins is a former staff writer for Emergency Management magazine.

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