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Smartphone App Pushes You To Prepare For Disaster

FEMA's smartphone app uses push notifications to encourage people to prepare for disasters.

Do you have an app on your smartphone that sends you a text message reminding you to exercise? Or one that alerts you when the bus is going to be late? The federal government is also using this sort of push technology to help prepare you for disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s [FEMA] smartphone app will sound an alarm to remind you to update your emergency kit every six months or test your smoke alarm every month.

“And then, if at that moment in time it’s not the right moment in time, you can click a snooze button and the app will remind you the next day,” said Shayne Adamski, FEMA’s senior manager of digital engagement.

He says once you tell the app you’ve practiced a fire escape plan, for example, it will reset to remind you again in six months.

You can also set it up to send you periodic tips on everything from earthquake safety to what to do in extreme heat.

Adamski does say the disaster preparedness agency is trying not to go overboard on push notifications, less the app becomes more irritating than helpful.

“We’re always looking at and trying to balance that because we don’t want to inundate folks and we think we’ve struck the right balance,” he said.

Adamski says the hope is that getting these little nudges from FEMA will at least get people thinking about the importance of being prepared for disaster. He says even small steps like buying bottled water or figuring out a family meeting place after an earthquake could make a difference when disaster strikes.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.