Disaster-related apps can help you prepare for worst

Mar 19, 2011 By Marc Saltzman

While working as a programmer for Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, Calif., two years ago, Terence Worley felt the ground rumble and shake beneath his feet. "I reached for my phone to see how close the quake was, and how big. But there wasn't an easy way to get this information," he says. That night, he wrote his first application for the iPhone, called QuakeWatch, designed to track and send warnings about earthquakes based on U.S. Geological Survey data and other feeds.

The App Store download, now with an average user rating of 4.5 stars out of 5, also uses the smartphone's GPS to calculate the user's distance from the epicenter. Users can share this information with their social network on Facebook or Twitter, right from within the app.

"At any given time you can have a wealth of information at your fingertips, which can be incredibly useful during a time of crisis," says Worley, 46, now living in the Washington, D.C., area.

Not surprisingly, since Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami a week ago, the 99-cent QuakeWatch app (also available for the ) has rocketed to the top of the paid news apps chart, now No. 1 in the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada and other countries.

Other apps are experiencing the same surge in downloads. Disaster Alert, a free app for iOS devices (, iPod Touch and iPad) and Google's platform, sees about 3,500 downloads a week on average, but that number tripled after the events in Japan, along with an additional 12,000 downloads for the new Android version.

Disaster Alert provides instant access to global "active hazards," including weather-related disasters-such as tsunamis, cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons-as well as earthquakes and volcanoes. The app serves as a mobile version of the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC), a government-funded organization that develops and applies information and technology solutions to foster disaster-resilient communities.

Because Disaster Alert monitors multiple agencies in real time, PDC's executive director Ray Shirkhodai in Maui says information about events can be seen in the app up to 30 minutes before mainstream media can broadcast the message. "Last Friday, for example, we received a thank-you from someone in Hawaii who was able to fill up their tank before anyone else knew about the tsunami," recalls Shirkhodai.

A few other apps that can help smartphone or tablet users stay informed, prepared or in touch:

While working as a programmer for Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, Calif., two years ago, Terence Worley felt the ground rumble and shake beneath his feet. "I reached for my phone to see how close the quake was, and how big. But there wasn't an easy way to get this information," he says. That night, he wrote his first application for the iPhone, called QuakeWatch, designed to track and send warnings about earthquakes based on U.S. Geological Survey data and other feeds.

The App Store download, now with an average user rating of 4.5 stars out of 5, also uses the smartphone's GPS to calculate the user's distance from the epicenter. Users can share this information with their social network on or Twitter, right from within the app.

"At any given time you can have a wealth of information at your fingertips, which can be incredibly useful during a time of crisis," says Worley, 46, now living in the Washington, D.C., area.

Not surprisingly, since Japan's devastating and tsunami a week ago, the 99-cent QuakeWatch app (also available for the iPad) has rocketed to the top of the paid news apps chart, now No. 1 in the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada and other countries.

Other apps are experiencing the same surge in downloads. Disaster Alert, a free app for iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad) and Google's Android platform, sees about 3,500 downloads a week on average, but that number tripled after the events in Japan, along with an additional 12,000 downloads for the new Android version.

Disaster Alert provides instant access to global "active hazards," including weather-related disasters-such as tsunamis, cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons-as well as earthquakes and volcanoes. The app serves as a mobile version of the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC), a government-funded organization that develops and applies information and technology solutions to foster disaster-resilient communities.

Because Disaster Alert monitors multiple agencies in real time, PDC's executive director Ray Shirkhodai in Maui says information about events can be seen in the app up to 30 minutes before mainstream media can broadcast the message. "Last Friday, for example, we received a thank-you from someone in Hawaii who was able to fill up their tank before anyone else knew about the tsunami," recalls Shirkhodai.

A few other apps that can help smartphone or tablet users stay informed, prepared or in touch:

-Disaster Readiness ($1.99; for iPhone, Android): Developed by Phoneflips, this app is designed to help smartphone and tablet users prepare for and manage through a number of emergency situations-be it natural disasters, nuclear radiation, house fires or terrorist attacks. Sections cover checklists, shelters, supplies, evacuation procedures, electricity shortages, water purification , and more.

-Disaster Alert ($24.99 for lifetime access; for BlackBerry): Available at BlackBerry App World, Disaster Alert lets you access information about worldwide natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis, and displays your geographical location on a map in relation to the disaster area. Skylab Mobilesystems' app provides up-to-date information and features a color- and image-coded system to give BlackBerry users a sense of magnitude for each disaster.

-American Red Cross: Shelter View (free; for iPhone): Should disaster strike, know when and where shelters have been opened to provide assistance to you or loved ones. The app provides map location and relevant details of open shelters from the Red Cross National Shelter System, which contains information about 60,000 potential disaster facilities around the world. Shelter information is updated every 30 minutes.

-Emergency Radio (99 cents; for iPhone): This police-scanner app delivers thousands of live radio feeds, such as police, fire, EMS and air traffic. EdgeRift's popular lets you organize all frequencies by location, most listened-to, recently added and favorites. Each listing provides information, number of listeners, map view and more.

Explore further: Body by smartphone

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Apple App Store downloads hit two billion mark

Sep 28, 2009

Apple announced Monday that more than two billion applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch have been downloaded from its App Store, just five months after hitting the one-billion download mark.

Apple’s App Store Downloads Top 1.5 Billion in First Year

Jul 14, 2009

Apple today announced that customers have downloaded more than 1.5 billion applications in just one year from its App Store, the largest applications store in the world. The App Store is also growing at an incredible pace ...

New from NASA, an iPhone application

Oct 23, 2009

NASA is coming to the iPhone. The US space agency announced on Friday that it has created a free NASA application for the popular Apple smartphone and the iPod Touch.

Mobile apps downloads forecast to double in 2011

Jan 26, 2011

More than 17 billion mobile applications will be downloaded from online stores this year, more than double the number of the mini-programs downloaded last year, research firm Gartner said Wednesday.

Apple app store hits 10 billion downloads

Jan 22, 2011

(AP) -- Apple says that its app store has hit the 10 billion downloads mark. The milestone, announced on Apple Inc.'s website Saturday, arrives as the company's hugely popular smart phone is likely to become ...

Android users get malware with their apps

Mar 02, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- As new platforms make their way into the market there will always someone who is looking to exploit them for illegal or unethical ends. More proof of that fact has come today when Google was ...

Recommended for you

Body by smartphone

11 hours ago

We love our smartphones. Since they marched out of the corporate world and into the hands of consumers about 10 years ago, we've relied more and more on our iPhone and Android devices to organize our schedules, ...

Breakthrough elastic cloud-to cloud networking

12 hours ago

Scientists from AT&T, IBM and Applied Communication Sciences (ACS) announced a proof-of-concept technology that reduces set up times for cloud-to-cloud connectivity from days to seconds. This advance is a major step forward ...

Security CTO to detail Android Fake ID flaw at Black Hat

Jul 29, 2014

Where have you heard this before: A team of security researchers discover a security flaw in Android devices. This is, however, news. This time, experts are talking about a flaw that involves a widespread ...

Software provides a clear overview in long documents

Jul 25, 2014

In the future, a software will help users better analyze long texts such as the documents for calls for bids, which are often more than one thousand pages long. Experts at Siemens' global research unit Corporate ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gwrede
1 / 5 (1) Mar 20, 2011
I wonder if the authors get paid by the word. This article shows an interesting way of increasing revenue. I wish PhysOrg would do something to the increasing quality issues with these articles.