• Syndicate content
  • Comment

New app could help during tornado season

Posted: March 9, 2013 - 4:22pm

In time for tornado season in Arkansas, American Red Cross has released the Tornado App.

The smartphone application available for free download on iPhone and Android phones is a warning and information system as well as a toolkit for use before, during and after a tornado event.

The app, released Monday, features an audible siren that sounds any time NOAA issues a tornado warning in the phone’s location, regardless of if the app is in use or closed.

“The app can wake you up with a tornado warning. It’s loud enough so that it can wake you from a deep sleep,” said Brigette Williams, American Red Cross communications officer for Arkansas.

Williams said the state is notorious for having weather events in the evening hours, often when residents are asleep.

“Arkansas is called fatality alley because our tornados tend to occur overnight when people are asleep and unaware. This is huge to have a siren on there that will push out if the app is on or not,” she said.

Flashlight, strobe light and alarm tools in the app’s emergency toolkit help when the power goes out or if the phone carrier needs to alert others to his or her location.

“The yellow strobe light can be used if your car breaks down or if you are just out walking. Have that light on so you can be seen,” said Williams.

The “I’m Safe” button featured in the toolkit sends the simple message of safety out to friends and family through social media, text or e-mail.

Several locations can be monitored, according to Williams, if friends or family members live or travel out of the area.

Williams said it is always tornado season in Arkansas, but peak time is between March and May.

“We’ve had them every month. They’re not as common in January, but we have had them and Arkansans need to be prepared,” she said.

The app is the fifth in a series released by American Red Cross.

Previous disaster emergency apps were the Wildfire App, the Earthquake App, the Hurricane App, and the Shelter Finder App.

The First Aid App is also available with a link inside the Tornado App.

To download the app, call **REDCROSS, or **73327677. It is also available in the App Store and Google play.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-xxx. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

  • Comment
Comments (10) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
mikeng1994
10435
Points
mikeng1994 03/10/13 - 09:02 pm
3
0
Good App

Early warning is the key, and this app is great for that.

For those who do not have smart phones there is the Faulkner County Code Red alert. It will give you a call and/or text message if there is a warning in your specific area. You register for this on line at

http://faulknercounty.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1...

It's free and a very reliable service.

Douglas Ward
36
Points
Douglas Ward 03/11/13 - 05:18 am
5
0
Storm warning apps

The best way to receive weather alerts at home is to install a NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio receiver. But an app for weather alerts on a smartphone is a good idea too.

The LogCabin app for iPhone has a very fast storm alert feature, but it does not have a siren sound. It works fast because it decodes messages from the local NOAA Weather Radio transmitter and automatically sends the push notifications to iOS devices. Users should receive the alert just a few seconds after the weather radio transmitter sends the alert tones. Users can configure the LogCabin app to receive alerts for any combination of counties in the coverage area for WXJ55, the local NOAA Weather Radio station for National Weather Service alerts. It is usually five or ten minutes faster than the Fox16 iOS app for receiving weather alert notifications. When a tornado is detected, it is important to deliver the alert as quickly as possible. It can save human lives. It's unfortunate we didn't have this technology when the tornado hit Conway in 1965, but it's practical now.

(I should disclose that I was the subcontractor who developed the original version of the LogCabin app a few years ago, and designed the weather alert system. The last couple of releases of the LogCabin app were handled by prime contractor's in-house staff. The LogCabin app could use an update, in my opinion, especially for iPhone 5. The siren for storm alerts would be an easy thing to add too. Although I'm don't currently have an official role for the LogCabin app, as a public service, I still monitor the weekly tests of the weather alert system and advise the app contractor on the results.)

I installed the Red Cross app a few days ago, but alas, I did not hear the siren for the storm warning yesterday. I'm looking forward to testing the speed of the Red Cross app to see how it compares to the LogCabin app.

It's probably a good idea to have multiple apps for storm alerts, but be aware that the mobile devices are not infallible. AT&T's mobile service was down for most of the day in Conway a couple of weeks ago, when their software upgrade went wrong and 50 cellular towers in Central Arkansas went out of service. And Verizon sent bogus location-based tornado warnings to many of their subscribers all over the state a few weeks ago.

Currently, I'm developing a new iPhone/iPad app that will have massive coverage of Arkansas news and weather, with many innovative features not currently available in existing apps. It will be independently published as a free app on the iTunes App Store later this year. I'm also working on projects for a couple of Arkansas news publishers. So stay tuned, lots of new Arkansas news and weather services will be available soon.

Douglas Ward
36
Points
Douglas Ward 03/11/13 - 05:23 am
4
0
Sneak preview

As mentioned above, I'm working on a new iPhone app for Arkansas news, weather and access to online government services. The image below is a sneak preview of the weather alerts map feature, which acquires data directly from the National Weather Service database.

The map depicts a tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service. The blue polygon shows the path of the storm. The areas shaded red are the warned counties. White County has a bold outline because I live there, and the app can be configured for the user's weather location. The user can tap the "i" button to read the full text of the alert. The left-and-right arrow buttons allow readers to browse through all of the current weather alerts for Arkansas.

Of course, the app will contain many other Arkansas weather features, such as weather radars, forecast graphs, interactive maps of current weather conditions, live streaming audio of NOAA Weather Radio (subject to availability), burn bans and road conditions, etc. When the app is installed on an iPad, more information can be displayed on the screen to simplify navigation, like this -

justoffcenter
703
Points
justoffcenter 03/12/13 - 02:27 pm
1
1
Big Brother

This is a Big Brother app. "The app, released Monday, features an audible siren that sounds any time NOAA issues a tornado warning in the phone’s location, regardless of if the app is in use or closed."

I am not downloading this app, but make yourself happy.

i_wonder
27122
Points
i_wonder 03/12/13 - 02:45 pm
1
2
lol
Unpublished

Sounds like someone does not need a smartphone.

justoffcenter
703
Points
justoffcenter 03/12/13 - 03:44 pm
2
1
If you have one..

If you have one they know where you are. You can't turn off GPS or any of the 'phone home' features.

You can get a by-the-month phone and use the apps and Big will not know who you are, just were you are at.

i_wonder
27122
Points
i_wonder 03/12/13 - 03:54 pm
3
1
wrong
Unpublished

Since enhanced-911, all cell providers must be able to triangulate your phone's position. If your phone is on, Big knows where you are.
HINT: After reading the below, go read the Patriot Act.

From Wikipedia.

Requirements

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has several requirements applicable to wireless or mobile telephones:[3]

Basic 911: All 911 calls must be relayed to a call center, regardless of whether the mobile phone user is a customer of the network being used.
E911 Phase 1: Wireless network operators must identify the phone number and cell phone tower used by callers, within six minutes of a request by a PSAP.
E911 Phase 2
95% of a network operator's in-service phones must be E911 compliant ("location capable") by December 31, 2005. (Several carriers missed this deadline, and were fined by the FCC.[4])
Wireless network operators must provide the latitude and longitude of callers within 300 meters, within six minutes of a request by a PSAP.[5] Accuracy rates must meet FCC standards on average within any given participating PSAP service area by September 11, 2012 (deferred from September 11, 2008).[6]

Location information is not only transmitted to the call center for the purpose of sending emergency services to the scene of the incident, it is used by the wireless network operator to determine to which PSAP to route the call.

Douglas Ward
36
Points
Douglas Ward 03/15/13 - 03:26 pm
0
0
About Triangulation

i_wonder - My impression is that triangulation is not involved in the new Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system.

Instead, it could simply be a matter of determining which cell towers are within or near the area polygons that are mapped by the National Weather Service for their storm alerts, and broadcasting the alert from those towers to all of the cell phones that are currently communicating with those towers. So it's not necessary to actively track each user's location for WEA alerts.

I'll speculate that the Red Cross app uses the iPhone's GPS system to monitor the user's location for decision support on sending alerts. If so, they are actively monitoring each user's location.

The Log Cabin app simply works on a user-selected county basis. The user can determine which counties should trigger alerts on their device. Personally, I like to know about weather alerts in the surrounding counties, it provides more time for preparation.

i_wonder
27122
Points
i_wonder 03/15/13 - 03:31 pm
1
0
hmmmm
Unpublished

"Instead, it could simply be a matter of determining which cell towers are within or near the area polygons that are mapped by the National Weather Service for their storm alerts, and broadcasting the alert from those towers to the cell phones that are currently communicating with those towers"

If a phone is on, it IS communicating with a tower. Otherwise, it would seem that the WEA warning would only work on phones that are in the process of making a phone call, correct?

I think you are confusing ACTIVELY tracking with ABILITY to track.

I don't think "Big" is tracking me at any given time, however, if "Big" wanted to track me, they could. Regardless of the existence of an app. A $5 "Go Phone" is made to Enhanced-911 standards.

Simple solution. Turn the phone off when not in use, if you don't want to be tracked. Which is only good advice until you need to make a call.

Douglas Ward
36
Points
Douglas Ward 03/15/13 - 03:42 pm
1
0
More triangulation

i_wonder - I'm merely speculating that triangulation is probably not a factor for sending WEA messages.

Triangulation data can probably be reconstructed for any cellphone user based on the cellphone tower log files. That is a different issue than WEA alerts. It is occasionally used as evidence in major crimes.

Back to Top