Preparedness goes mobile as hurricane season begins

Discussion of mobile applications dominated President Barack Obama’s briefing Friday on disaster preparedness with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

NOAA, which predicted a near-normal or below-normal Atlantic hurricane season this year, briefed the president on the launch of its new storm-surge map, which was announced in January and launched June 1.

The map is ready to go live now and will be in effect for the first storm that makes landfall this season. According to a public information statement from NOAA, the administration is looking for input regarding both the the storm-surge map’s accuracy and effectiveness. Accessible at, the map is based on the forecast track, intensity and size of a storm, but does not take into account flooding due to levees being topped.

At the briefing, the Energy Department demonstrated “Lantern Live,” a new app the department was scheduled to release prior to the start of hurricane season on June 1. However, after a FedScoop examination of the iOS App Store and the Google Play app store, the app did not appear to be live at publication.


Designed to help users create a crowdsourced database of where electrical outages may have occurred, the app will also use Yelp’s API and Twitter functionality to highlight open gas stations in a user’s community during a crisis.

Obama also mentioned, a website operated under the Federal Emergency Management Agency where users can find emergency preparedness information.

At the state and local levels, both Virginia and Orange County, Fla., showed apps that assist their residents in all levels of an emergency.

“States still have the primary role in preparing for and responding to disasters, and we’ll continue to make sure that they get the full resources that they need, the support they need to back them up,” Obama said at FEMA headquarters. “But it’s also every citizen’s responsibility to make sure that we are prepared for emergencies when they come — and not just hurricanes but every emergency.”

Virginia’s free Ready Virginia mobile app provides weather watches and warnings based on a user’s location, a maps section with information updates during emergencies and a section for disaster news from the commonwealth’s Emergency Management Department, local emergency management contact information and a template for users to create a family emergency plan to share between devices.


Similarly, in Orange County, Fla., OCFL Alert provides FAQs, public service announcements and the maps and alerts available from other disaster preparedness apps.

Obama used his hurricane season briefing as a platform to mention his push for action on climate change, a plan to cut power plant emissions 30 percent by 2030. Rolled out via executive order, the plan will specifically target coal-burning power plants.

“The changes we’re seeing in our climate means that, unfortunately, storms like [Superstorm] Sandy could end up being more common and more devastating,” Obama said. “And that’s why we’re also going to be doing more to deal with the dangers of carbon pollution that help to cause this climate change and global warming.”

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