When a disaster strikes our communities, information is critical to the first responders and the people that live in that community. First responders need to know who needs help, where their help is needed, and the quickest way to get there. Conversely, as local citizens are fleeing danger, they need to know the quickest and most secure routes for getting themselves out of danger.
With so many smart phones in service these days, everyone has the capability of helping to report community hazards and provide critical real time data to government authorities that are gathering, analyzing and dispatching first responders to the various threats that develop within the course of a disaster or even everyday life.
Here are four applications that you can download onto your smart phone and go from watching the disaster to reporting the disaster:
FEMA Disaster Reporter– This app allows the user to a photograph a hazard within a community and downloads that photograph onto a crowdsourcing online map used to develop real world data for disaster responders. FEMA monitors this site and will use the information for its disaster response efforts.
ELERTS– A simple to use application that allows you to take photos of nearby threats, then upload the photo to a privately owned crowd sourced map that you can monitor. This application also comes with an alert feature providing you alerts to localized dangers you may encounter. If you or your loved ones are in danger, they can activate the app’s “SkyWriter” feature which sends out a “I need help” or a “I am ok” message on Twitter, email, or instant message informing your friends and family that you are in need of assistance or that you have arrived safely to your destination.
Team Red Cross– For those who want to do more than just snap a photo, the American Red Cross has rolled out an interactive app that allows users to not only photograph and document residential damages, but, can actually take part in Red Cross volunteer opportunities. Perhaps you have time to distribute food and water, support a shelter, or conduct a damage assessment. The app alerts you to different volunteer opportunities or missions and taking a page from all the gaming apps, awards you badges as you complete the missions.
CNN I Report– For those who want to take disaster reporting to the big leagues, you can sign up to a member of CNN’s I Report team. While not an app per say, you need to go onto CNN’s website and create an account before you download any stories. Using your smart phone you can develop stories, photographs and videos and submit them to CNN where the CNN producers cull through the day’s inbox in search of something that is noteworthy. Ironically, in my years of doing disaster work, I find that the local authorities are often watching CNN for breaking news within the local communities.
Your local agency- Many local government agencies are bringing on localized versions of the above so that you can report local hazards directly to your hometown agency. Do an app search for your local community and find how you can help in times of trouble. For example, I found in my hometown the app, I Watch Brevard County, where I can report localized threats directly to the sheriff’s office.
Of course with all these apps and others, if you see something that should be reported, make sure you call 911 first and foremost. And, never put yourself at risk for a story.
If you have a good app for disaster reporting, I would love to hear about it.