August 26, 2011, 4:25 PM — Sticking an inappropriate level of enthusiasm for impending disaster with undeserved enthusiasm for a bit of coding with little potential impact, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced the release of a new disaster app for Android devices.
"As Hurricane Irene threatens the East Coast, I’m excited to announce FEMA’s gone mobile (again)," the announcement reads on FEMA's blog. "I wanted to share two new ways you can get information about how to prepare for and recover from hurricanes and other disasters on your mobile devices."
One is a FEMA application called FEMA APP that gives the same kind of help you'd get in an Emergency Preparedness brochure of the kind teachers handed out in elementary school.
It has lists of things you should have already put in your emergency kit, a list of meeting places you should have already told everyone in the family about before the disaster, and a map of shelters and disaster recovery centers.
There are no weather updates, news reports, options to ask for help or search for specific resources, like fresh water.
The other method of getting information, is via text message.
Send PREPARE to 43362 (4FEMA) to sign up for monthly disaster safety tips. Or text SHELTER and your zip code to 43362 and FEMA will text you shelter locations near you. (Example: shelter 90210).
Although the information seems as if it would be useful only after it was too late to either get the information, get the app or do any preparation (assuming cell phone networks would be overcrowded or out of action in the day or so after an emergency), there is an interestingly circular FAQ at the bottom of the page:
Will I get emergency alerts through the FEMA App? (No.)
Can I discontinue using the App at any time? (Yes. Just delete it when you don't need it, which is any time except immediately after a disaster, when you won't be able to download it.)
What are the future enhancements?
"A: If you have suggestions/ideas for future enhancements, please send them to FEMA"
(How about emergency alerts and anything that offers more help from a piece of new technology than we could get from a brochure? Like traffic alerts, travel recommendations, information on local power and water supplies, emergency help? Is that available? [No.])
Good luck with the hurricane.
Source: Reuters, FEMA trailers