The American Red Cross iPhone Application for Hurricane Relief

While researching this week for examples of social media that was used during Hurricane Sandy I came across an iPhone application that was created recently by the American Red Cross to provide resources for iPhone users in the path of a hurricane. The application offers resources such as:

  • “Safe and Well”
  • Food, Water, and Gas Locations
  • Warming Stations
  • FEMA Disaster Center Locater
  • Tips on how to prepare and recover

The application also has a Hurricane Sandy branch that is specific to the Northeast region. In this part of the application, users can track Sandy, find region-specific advice such as where to locate warming stations, and even address the emotional health issues that can come with being a victim of a natural disaster.

The most interesting part of the application addresses communication during disaster. The “Safe and Well” feature was created by the American Red Cross prior to the release of the iPhone application, and was available on their website. People can enter their information into the program so that others that may be searching can locate other displaced peoples. This is a great tool for older generations that may not use tools such as Facebook and Twitter to update their information and communicate with others.

Those that were hit by Hurricane Sandy reviewed and criticized the application, listing it as “indespensible” during the storm, but also listing areas of improvement. For example, some said that after the storm hit, information was not updated often enough. This is a crucial time for users to recieve constant updates while suffering the effects of the storm. Furthermore, there is the issue of the device requiring the GPS locator to be activated on the phone. This drains battery much faster than normal, and this could present an issue especially in a recovering region that may not have electricity to recharge the battery.

I think that this application would have been very useful during Hurricane Katrina. Katrina hit prior to the surge of Facebook and Twitter, and therefore the significant amount of displaced peoples would have greatly benefitted from easy access to the Safe and Well feature. The application also offers a communication tool for those that are affected by the disaster. Users can write about their experience, offer bits of advice for others suffering from the same storm, and provide support. I think that with improvements made after critiques from Sandy users are addressed, applications such as this may play a vital role in future disaster relief.

To learn more about the Red Cross iPhone app, click here.

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3 responses to “The American Red Cross iPhone Application for Hurricane Relief

  • charris7

    This project seems very similar to the Google Crisis Response project…however, an iPhone app is always extremely useful. I am not sure if the Google response has an iPhone app. It would be interesting to obtain data on how many people used the app during the Hurricane.

  • meghanspector

    While I know how useful location services can be, the GPS draining the battery life is a pretty big concern, and one that can’t be fixed by the app developer, and seems so far relatively unfixable by apple. One concern I always have with the proliferation of electricity dependent preparedness kits is the false sense of security they may create. If you believe all you need to know is on your iphone, will you educate yourself ahead of time on hurricane preparedness or rely on the phone, which may not have a charge when you need it?

    Although this is certainly a great tool I hope no one uses electricity dependent resources to the exclusion of more stable sources (like the laminated pages found in most hurricane kits).

  • Paige Boetefuer

    I think it’s great that they asked users to review the tool after the hurricane, because it’s the best way to get feedback and make improvements for the future. Technology develops and improves because people figure out new ways to meet the needs and desires of the uses. The same approach can be helpful for ICT4D devices. Hopefully, these reviews and suggestions for improvements are taken into consideration and changes are made.

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