Evacuteer was founded by Robert Fogarty in 2009 in New Orleans. The organization provides volunteers to aid people during hurricane evacuations. In that same year and in the same city. Calliope Digital was founded by Chris Van Buskirk. The company develops various mobile apps; several of which are specifically for people in New Orleans. The mission of the company is to develop high value products which are superior to its competitors. In 2010, these two organizations worked together to develop an application (app) called iVacuate. Calliope Digital’s Chris Van Buskirk and Clare Durrett were the main designers of the app while Evacuteer provided some of the content. The idea behind iVacuate emerged from the experiences of Buskirk and Durrett as evacuees of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Gustav. The pair realized that the stress and difficulties of an evacuation could be alleviated with the aid of technology. With the advent of iPhones and apps, they decided to create an app which would aid people during and in preparation for evacuations.
Two versions of the app were created: a basic version and a more comprehensive version, created specifically for the residents of New Orleans. The basic version was targeted for people living in the Gulf Coast states who each year faced the threats of hurricanes and the stress of evacuations. The basic version consisted of the hurricane preparedness list, list of essential items you should include with any evacuation, photo gallery to record your belongings for insurance purposes, preparing your pet for an evacuation, and weather updates for hurricanes. The New Orleans version contained those same features, but included current pick up locations for those evacuating through the City Assisted Evacuation Plan and contraflow maps of I-10 W, I-55 N, and 1-59 N. The New Olreans version costs $4.99 on iTunes, but for those who are not willing to pay as much for an app can buy the basic version for $1.99.
According to Chris Van Buskirk, they believed the earnings from the app to be promising. After the first initial release of the application in 2010, he describe himself as “happy” with download numbers. In addition, the app was number 2 on iTunes of free weather apps for 4 weeks during that year’s hurricane season. However, they wanted the app to be free. Hearst Media showed interest in the application and so Calliope decided to license it to them and take their own version off the market. Instead, they partnered with WDSU to create a similar app which is currently available on iTunes for free.
However, there have been many strengths and weaknesses associated with both the iVacuate app and the WDSU app. With the number of evacuations in New Orleans, there is a definited need for this app. It provides integral information during an evacuation. For example, the maps feature something every evacuee desires as it is less of hassle than dealing with paper maps. In addition, contraflow procedures can be confusing for many drivers. The contraflow provides directions letting evacuees know which route to take if they would like to head to Texas versus Mississippi. The apps are very user-friendly. They are easy to navigate between the different features, and it is easy to read and understand information. In addition to the strengths, there are some weaknesses to the apps. The iVacuate was only available to a limited audience of iPhone users. However, the WDSU app is available in both iPhone and Android versions. Though, again, the app is limited to only smartphone users. Everyone cannot afford an iPhone and some may choose not to buy one. Thus some the features that are available on the app may not be available to the people for whom it would be most helpful. For example, the Pick-Up component would be most useful to those who cannot evacuate by themselves and lack their own mode of transportation. However, this group would include the low-income people and the elderly who would least likely have iPhones or other smartphones.
More information on the application can be found in this article by New Orleans Tech. More information about Calliope and Evacuteer can be found on their respective websites.