January 17, 2013
By Alix Hines
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Gov. Bob McDonnell, in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, released an emergency preparedness app for Virginians to use during disasters. The free application for iPhone and Android phones is called Ready Virginia. But it’s unclear if the app is really “ready” and useful for Virginians.
“This new app is one of the most important ones Virginians can install on their mobile devices. Now our citizens can get ‘mobile ready’ and ensure that their families are prepared for emergencies and stay informed with official disaster information when an emergency occurs,” McDonnell said in a press release about the app.
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management designed the app so Virginians can stay up to date about weather alerts and other emergencies. It includes maps of evacuation routes, a list of hurricane storm surge zones and gauges, contact information for local emergency managers and links to register for alerts during an emergency.
Although the app at first glance seems comprehensive, many of the categories are filled with fairly self-explanatory information. For example, under the “checklist” category, there is a list of items needed during emergencies, such as a first-aid kit, batteries, flashlights, water and other obvious items.
The “my plan” category allows users to make a list of emergency contacts, medications, work information, school information, neighborhood meeting places, out-of-town meeting places and pets in case of an emergency. Although these are all useful issues to consider when planning ahead in case of an emergency, the app itself doesn’t seem so useful.
The Ready Virginia app allows users to sign up for local alerts. But when I went to register for alerts through the city of Richmond, I found that Richmond does not have a Web-based alert system.
The “maps” category is the most useful part of the app. Under “maps” users can select a map for evacuation routes, open shelters and storm surges in different portions of Virginia. In an emergency, this could save lives because evacuation routes can be easily accessed.
The live Twitter feed from @VDEM is also useful for any breaking news or weather reports.
Overall, I’d say Ready Virginia needs work before it’s “ready” for a five-star rating from me.
About the author: Alix Hines is a journalist who specializes in social media at Virginia Commonwealth University.