In the latest in emergency services offerings for mobile devices, the American Red Cross is launching a geotargeted Tornado App for Android and iOS. The new app emits a high-pitched siren and flashes an on-screen tornado warning message whenever the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning in the user’s vicinity. Sirens go off on a user’s phone or tablet even if the app is closed; according to a press release, the loud siren is designed to “reduce the chance of sleeping through an actual warning.”
Alongside the sirens, the Red Cross’ offering also includes safety information in English and Spanish, along with push notices when local warnings expire. Due to frequent power outages after traumatic weather events, smartphones now play an important role in public safety notifications and text messages are regularly used to communicate when lines are overloaded. Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T, along with some smaller carriers, also issue wireless emergency alerts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to mobile customers, usually in the form of a push notice. CTIA, the trade association which collaborates with FEMA to send the emergency weather alerts, also has the capability to send Presidential Alerts–emergency notices “issued by the President or a designee”–to customers of those three networks.