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American Red Cross Midway Kansas Chapter unveils interactive tornado app

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, March 3, 2013, at 11:55 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, at 2:53 p.m.

Starting this week, mobile users can carry a whirlwind of tornado preparedness tips in their pockets.

In conjunction with National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, the American Red Cross on Monday launched its tornado app, a new interactive tool that funnels safety tornado tips, emergency advice and instant weather updates into a single source on Apple and Android mobile devices.

It’s the latest installment in a series of free mobile apps offered by the Red Cross that put information instantly into the hands of those wading through a storm.

“The tornado app is an overall strategy for people to be safe in any weather-related emergency,” American Red Cross Midway Kansas Chapter spokesman James Williams said, noting the app’s step-by-step checklists and preloaded disaster-managements tips designed to guide people to safety when a tornado threat occurs.

“Our previous apps have been widely regarded as great sources of information, great access to live-savings skills.”

He added: “We’re excited to show it off.”

Highlights of the tornado app include location-based weather broadcasts, real-time storm tracking for multiple locations, a tab that instantly pinpoints Red Cross emergency shelters as they open and high-pitched warning alerts that sound when a storm warning is issued. Users can also tailor a personal emergency plan that can be shared via text or e-mail with family members and friends.

And one-touch messaging lets people use social media websites Facebook and Twitter to tell family and friends they’re safe.

“If we had had this when the April 14 tornado happened, people would’ve had all of this information right here on their phone,” Williams said, referring to a tornado that last year destroyed several homes and displaced residents of southeast Wichita’s Oaklawn neighborhood.

“Making a plan is a huge part of how quickly you respond to a disaster … and streamline the recovery process.”

The app features four short interactive quizzes, with questions such as “What rooms in your house should you choose as your safe room in case a tornado hits?” and “Which is the best source for light during a power outage?” for users to test their storm knowledge.

There’s also an option to plot the history of tornadoes at a location; the app shows more than 700 reported in Wichita and the surrounding area over the past 63 years.

Some of the real-time functions won’t work if an Internet connection isn’t available or is lost during a storm, Williams said.

But he and the Red Cross think the app may help save lives and keep people better informed during a tornado outbreak.

“We know that people in Wichita are going to find it valuable,” he said. “They need it.”

The tornado app is available in English and Spanish. It can be downloaded at the Apple app store, Google Play store and at www.redcross.org/mobileapps.

Red Cross’ other apps — ones for hurricane, wildfire and earthquake preparedness, one for first aid tips, an emergency shelter locator called Shelter View and a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) app — also are free to download.

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.

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