WASHINGTON, DC -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) launched a new feature to its free app that will enable users to receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations across the nation. This new feature allows users to receive alerts on severe weather happening anywhere they select in the country, even if the phone is not located in the area, making it easy to follow severe weather that may be threatening family and friends.
"Emergency responders and disaster survivors are increasingly turning to mobile devices to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters," said Craig Fugate, FEMA administrator. "This new feature empowers individuals to assist and support family and friends before, during, and after a severe weather event."
"Every minute counts when severe weather threatens and mobile apps are an essential way to immediately receive the life-saving warnings provided by NOAA's National Weather Service," said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA administrator. "These alerts are another tool in our toolbox as we work to build a 'Weather Ready Nation' - a nation that's ready, responsive, and resilient to extreme weather events."
According to a recent survey by Pew Research, 40 percent of Americans have used their smartphone to look up government services or information. Additionally, a majority of smartphone owners use their devices to keep up to date with breaking news, and to be informed about what is happening in their community.
The new weather alert feature adds to the app's existing features to help Americans through emergencies. In addition to this upgrade, the app also provides a customizable checklist of emergency supplies, maps of open shelters and Disaster Recovery Centers, and tips on how to survive natural and manmade disasters. The FEMA app also offers a "Disaster Reporter" feature, where users can upload and share photos of disaster damage.
Some other key features of the app include:
Safety Tips: Tips on how to stay safe before, during, and after over 20 types of hazards, including floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes
Disaster Reporter: Users can upload and share photos of damage and recovery efforts
Maps of Disaster Resources: Users can locate and receive driving directions to open shelters and disaster recovery centers
Apply for Assistance: The app provides easy access to apply for federal disaster assistance
Information in Spanish: The app defaults to Spanish-language content for smartphones that have Spanish set as their default language
The latest version of the FEMA app is available for free in the App Store for Apple devices and Google Play for Android devices. Users who already have the app downloaded on their device should download the latest update for the weather alerts feature to take effect. The new weather alerts feature in the FEMA app does not replace Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) function available on many new smartphones. WEAs have a special tone and vibration and are sent for emergencies such as extreme weather, AMBER alerts, or Presidential Alerts.