FEMA Launches Mobile Apps For Disaster Preparedness - InformationWeek

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FEMA Launches Mobile Apps For Disaster Preparedness

Mobile application and text-message update service will help people become better prepared before emergencies happen.

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has launched new mobile applications to help people prepare for emergencies just as Hurricane Irene is threatening the U.S. East Coast.

The agency has launched a mobile app for Android-based devices so people can keep track of preparations that will help them better ride out a disaster, according to a post on the FEMA blog.

The FEMA app allows them to check off the items they have in their family's emergency kit; enter family emergency meeting locations; review safety tips on what to do before, during, and after a disaster; view a map of shelters and disaster recovery centers across the United States; and read FEMA blog posts for up to date information about potential disastrous events.

FEMA built the application to work even when there is no mobile service so people can access the information they need to anytime on their device.

While the app is only available for the Android market now, eventually FEMA will unveil a version for Blackberry version 6 and iPhones, the agency said.

In addition to the new app, FEMA also is offering a new text-message service allowing people to receive updates from FEMA about disaster preparedness.

People can text PREPARE to 43362 (4FEMA) to sign up for monthly disaster safety tips; SHELTER+ their ZIP code to the same number to find the nearest shelter in their respective areas; and DRC and their ZIP code to the same number for information about the nearest disaster recovery center.

FEMA in the past has been criticized for poor management of disaster situations--such as the case with Hurricane Katrina in 2004--and has been working to improve disaster preparedness and recovery efforts.

In fact, with nine disasters already having hit the United States this year, other agencies also are shoring up their emergency-preparedness efforts by leveraging technology.

The Department of Health and Human Services, for instance, is asking developers to create a Facebook application that can be used on mobile devices as well to connect with other people during emergencies to help them survive the event and also recover after. Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) also is using technology to improve the precision of weather and water forecasts and to effectively communicate risk to local authorities.

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