OPINION COLUMNS

Here’s an app that could save your life

By Kristen Tribe | Published Saturday, May 18, 2013

{{{*}}}The threat of tornadoes leaves one feeling helpless.

While you can protect your home against many potential tragedies, there is no safeguard for tornadoes. If you know one is coming, you can save yourself, but sometimes they strike without warning, much like Wednesday night.

Kristen Tribe

Kristen Tribe

Earlier in the day severe thunderstorms were predicted, but no one expected the devastation that lay ahead. The National Weather Service is reporting that 16 tornadoes tore through North Texas Wednesday night, killing six people in Granbury and leaving a path of destruction in their wake. Seven people were still missing as of Friday afternoon.

At least two homeowners in northern Wise County suffered severe damage to their property, but the debris trail was long, stringing from the Wise/Montague county line to Alvord and Greenwood/Slidell.

I’m fortunate that I’ve never directly suffered the effects of a tornado, but realistically, that could change on any given day.

Obviously, there’s no way to safeguard against it, but in an effort to remain safe, like most people, I watch the weather. Our family also has a weather radio that we turn on when things threaten to get rough. And just yesterday, I loaded a tornado app on my phone.

The American Red Cross recently released it for iPhone and Android phones. I had intended to put this on my phone for some time, and after Wednesday night’s storms and an endorsement from a co-worker, it was a no-brainer.

Special Projects Manager Brian Knox used the free app Wednesday night in the midst of the chaos. He said an audible alarm that sounds like sirens goes off when a tornado warning is issued, which he felt was effective.

According to the Red Cross website, the sound was designed to wake users so they would never sleep through a tornado warning.

The app also gives you the location of Red Cross shelters open in your area should you need one, and it allows for creation of an “I’m Safe” notification that can be shared through social media, text and email with family and friends.

The Red Cross has also preloaded it with a variety of safety information that can be accessed without phone signal or an Internet connection, and it even has a “toolkit” with a strobe light and flashlight that might come in handy when a storm strikes.

Like most apps, it has a few kitschy elements, including safety quizzes for which you can earn virtual badges. But overall, it seems to provide useful information.

There are likely numerous other apps that provide similar information, but this is the one I’m going to try for now. For more information about the Red Cross app, go to www.redcross.org/mobile-apps/tornado-app.

It’s available for download on iTunes or Google Play. You can also call **REDCROSS (**73327677) from your mobile phone, and the Red Cross will send you a link to download the app.

Interestingly enough, they also have apps for wildfires, earthquakes and hurricanes, as well as a first aid app and a shelter finder app.

Unfortunately, they don’t emit any sort of force field or gigantic bubble to protect your home, but perhaps they will disseminate information to stifle that helpless feeling and better enable you to keep your family safe.

Obviously, that’s the top priority.

Kristen Tribe is news editor of the Wise County Messenger.

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