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App offers emergency information

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - If you should ever need an evacuation route out of Kanawha County, there soon will be an app for that.

And for some more commonly needed emergency information as well.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department is developing an app for mobile devices that will allow the user to access information such as what should be in an emergency kit and what evacuation routes are available for specific areas of the county.

The app also will allow the user to store information in the phone so it can be accessed even if there is no cell signal or Internet access, said Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director of the health department.

"People can access the information if they have just a little bit of power in their phone," Gupta said.

Gupta hopes the free app will be available by the end of the week. 

Health department officials wanted an app that could be accessed even if cell towers were knocked out and Internet access weren't available. Such situations have happened recently, as when Superstorm Sandy and the summer derecho swept through the state, Gupta said.

The user can choose to save specific information available through the app, such as the evacuation routes, said Krista Farley, program manager at the health department.

A citizen may not wish to store the entire emergency preparedness plan, which is available on the app, she said. Doing so would require a lot of space on the mobile device.

Users also can choose to save the evacuation route for the specific area in which they live.

"So they can save space and tailor it to their needs," Farley said.

Information such as how to deal with food safety during an extended power outage will also be available.

The app will walk the user through the process of making an emergency plan in case of a disaster, either natural or manmade, she said.

Emergency contacts for fire departments, EMS and other first responders will be included so that people have information they need right at their fingertips, Farley said.

The process of developing the app started more than a year ago when the health department received a $30,000 grant from the National Library of Medicine, Gupta said.

He and other health department officials opted to use about $10,000 of the grant to develop the app, he said.

Information technology employees at the center worked with counterparts in the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg to develop the app.

The app will be available for both Apple and Android devices, Farley said. The app stores for both devices are reviewing it, and it should be available "any day now," Gupta said.

Information can be updated on the app just like any other, Farley said. The app will prompt the user to synchronize the information every time it's opened. That will give the user the most up-to-date information.  

Those wishing to download the app should search for Kanawha County Emergency Management App in their app store, Farley said.

The app is user friendly and information can be easily accessed, Farley said.

"If you can use a cell phone, you can use this app," Gupta said.

The app is yet another tool to help residents in Kanawha County deal with emergency situations, said Dale Petry, director of the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Petry was impressed with the fact that the app will allow users to store information in their phones and access it without a cell signal or Internet.

"I think it's very important to have this information stored on a phone," Petry said.

Gupta and other health department officials plan to tour the county to promote the app at county schools and other facilities after it is launched.

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon. 

 


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