The American Red Cross last week launched its new “Tornado App,” and Johnson County Emergency Management Coordinator Jamie Moore said the new app has the potential to save lives.
The free app is available in English and in Spanish for iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones and Android tablet users, giving them instant access to local, real-time information regarding tornado watches and warnings in their area. It includes a high-pitched siren and “tornado warning” alert to let the user know when a tornado warning has been issued in their area. And it sends an “all clear” alert to let users know when a tornado warning as expired or been cancelled.
T.D. Smyers, regional chief executive officer for the Red Cross’ North Texas Region, said the audible alerts allow users to monitor the weather even when they are away from the radio or TV and in places where weather band radios may not work.
The app also offers:
zx Location-based warning alerts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flood watches and warnings that the user can customize to specific locations.
zx Enhanced weather maps.
zx One touch “I’m safe” messaging that allows users to send texts to family members and friends.
zx Checklists and steps to create an emergency plan and share it with household members.
zx Pre-loaded content giving users instant access to critical action steps even without mobile connectivity.
zx A tool kit with a flashlight, strobe light and audible alarm.
zx Locations of open Red Cross shelters.
Moore, who checked out the app over the weekend as a line of storms moved through the area, said he is impressed.
“I think it’s great,” Moore said. “There is only so much that local officials can do to warn the public when there is a severe weather event. The public has to be proactive in protecting themselves, and this is a great way to do that.”
Moore said that NOAA weather radios are ideal, but a lot of people don’t have access to those radios.
“But almost everyone has some kind of smart phone or tablet these days,” he said. “They can download this app, and it helps fill that gap. It basically turns your smart phone into a NOAA weather radio.”
Moore said that the tornado safety tips and emergency plan suggestions are certainly advantageous, especially the “I’m safe” text messaging feature.
“Oftentimes, you are able to send a text, even when you can’t call. And being able to send someone a text to let them know you are safe is a very good thing,” Moore said.
But, he added, it is the tornado alert notification that is, without a doubt, the most important feature.
“Notification is really the key to safety” in tornados, Moore said, and the American Red Cross Tornado App helps do that as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
The National Weather Service is the only one that issues tornado watches or warnings, and then others rebroadcast those warnings, Moore said. Those with NOAA weather radios — and now those with this Tornado app — don’t have to wait to hear the rebroadcasts — they get the warnings the second the weather service issues them.
“People with this app can get the warnings minutes earlier than anyone else, and those can be life-saving minutes,” Moore said.”I really do think this app has the potential to save lives.”
The Tornado App is the latest in a series of mobile apps created by the American Red Cross to help people be prepared and aware in the event of natural disasters. Earlier apps have focused on hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires. Smyers said that Red Cross apps are already on more than 2 million mobile devices across the United States.
The Tornado App and other Red Cross apps are available free from the Apple App Store, the Google Play Store for Android and at www.redcross.org/mobileapps.