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Smart Phone Apps for Emergency Managers and First Responders

Posted on Thu, Jun 06, 2013

Information and communication are becoming more intertwined than ever before through the availability and affordability of smart phones. This evolving wave of broad accessibility offers new options in emergency response planning and management. There are a variety of free and low-cost smart phone apps that can assist EHS managers and first responders, ranging from warnings of impending crises to response aids providing instantaneous applicable information. With pertinent information at the fingertips of responders, the decision-making process can be improved. As a result, a response can often be accelerated, potentially minimizing the effects of the incident.

This list provides a sample of emergency preparedness and response smart phone apps. (TRP Corp does not endorse any specific app, as this list is for informational purposes only. Readers should evaluate each app for relevance, keeping in mind the necessity for common response language as dictated by the Incident Command System (ICS).)

  • 2012 Emergency Response Guidebook (FREE)The mobile ERG will make it easier for firefighters, police and other emergency first responders to quickly locate the information they need, thanks to an electronic word search function, and will ensure easy reading even during nighttime emergencies. The 2012 version of the ERG includes new evacuation tables for large toxic gas spills and standard response procedures for gas and liquid pipeline incidents. Android, IPhone
  • WISER 2.0 (FREE)WISER is a system designed to assist first responders in hazardous material incidents. WISER provides a wide range of information on hazardous substances, including substance identification support, physical characteristics, human health information, and containment and suppression advice. The WISER application extracts content from TOXNET's Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB), an authoritative, peer-reviewed information resource maintained by the National Library of Medicine, and places that information into the hands of those who need it most. The Android version of WISER includes the full ERG 2012 tool. Android, IPhone
  • CadPage (FREE)Designed for volunteer firefighters, CAD Page is an advanced, customizable notification app that receives SMS pages from a central FIRE/EMS Cad and then presents options for mapping the call, driving directions, and other features. It keeps a history of calls and allows for customized alerts. When used in combination with ringtone apps, users can assign a unique notification sound for all incoming CADPage alerts. Android, iPhone
  • Scanner Radio (FREE) and Scanner Radio Pro ($2.99)Live audio from over 4,000 police and fire scanners, weather radios, and amateur radio repeaters from around the world (primarily in the United States and Australia, with more being added daily). Users can browse by genre, GPS location, or source. It’s important to note that the developer doesn’t control what frequencies you can hear, this is a function of the sources. Currently Scanner Radio features feeds from LiveFireFeeds.com, RadioReference.com, RailroadRadio.net and Wunderground.com. Android
  • 5-0 Radio Police Scanner Lite (Free) and 5-0 Radio Pro Police Scanner ($2.99)This IPhone version of Scanner Radio is one of ”iTunes Top 100 Downloads” for IOS apps. It allows users to tap into the largest collection of live police, firefighters, aircraft, railroad, marine, emergency, and ham radios. It communicates location-based news, events, or major crime waves. iPhone
  • FEMA (FREE)A government provided basic app that provides information on preparing for and responding to various types of disasters. The main menu is divided into seven boxes containing different types of applications. The app includes preparedness information for different types of disasters, a map with FEMA Disaster Recovery Center locations (one-stop centers where disaster survivors can access key relief services), shelters, and general ways the public can get involved before and after a disaster. Android, iPhone
  • AccuWeather (FREE)Forecasts in 22 languages, with current conditions updated every five minutes. Severe weather notices include optional, real-time pushed severe weather alerts for your chosen locations in the United States. The pushed severe weather alerts are user-friendly, easy-to-read, and visible from your lock screen, home screen, and from the Notification Center. Voted "Best iPhone App" by the 2012 Mobie awards. Android, iPhone

Emergency managers and first responders should be knowledgeable of threats based on geographical risk assessments. Specialized apps, such as Earthquake Alert, that provide specialized information based on these assessments may be beneficial.  The number of location-based emergency preparedness apps, such as ReadyVirginia andNorwich/Chenago County NY EMO, continue to rise. Ideally, location based apps should be an all-inclusive, singular mobile resource that allows users to access accurate and timely information before and in the event of an emergency. Unfortunately, app development requires funding and technology specialists, which may impede short-range intuitive design and rapid availability.

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Tags: Earthquake Preparedness, Emergency Management, Extreme Weather, Social Media, Notification Systems