By Jody Weyers, Director of Volunteers and Communications, Northeast Wisconsin
September 2013, I saw first-hand the devastation that can happen from flooding and flash floods. I was deployed to Denver, Colorado to assist in Disaster Public Affairs and worked with a professional photographer and his assistant.
We talked directly with the clients impacted and over and over, I heard the same stories of how fast the water came rushing up to their homes and they barely had enough time to escape or had to be rescued. I also saw the devastation all around from roads buckled from the rushing waters, to parks once filled with children playing, that now looked like lakes, to seeing water up to the steps of homes.
I was there when one family was going back into their home for the first time after five days to see if there was anything worth salvaging. You could see the water-line up to the middle of the garage door. We had breathing masks on because of the mold and mildew that set in after the flood waters had receded. The floor was covered with brown silt. These are just some of the images that will remain with me when I think of flooding.
Did you know that floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States?
The American Red Cross developed its new Flood App to help save lives and reduce losses from floods and flash floods.
This free app gives iPhone, iPad and Android smart phone users instant access to local and real-time information, so they know what to do before, during and after a flood. The content is available in English and Spanish based on the user’s language settings on their mobile device.
The app includes location-based, audible NOAA flood and flash flood watches and warnings – even if the app is closed. Other features include:
- One-touch “I’m safe” messaging that allows users to send a message letting family and friends know that they are out of harm’s way;
- Preloaded content that gives users instant access to critical action steps, even without mobile connectivity;
- Toolkit with flashlight, strobe light and audible alarm to let others know where you are;
- Locations of open Red Cross shelters;
- Real-time recovery resources for returning home and cleaning up; and
- Badges users can earn through interactive quizzes and share on social networks.
The app is the latest in the series of Red ross emergency preparedness apps that put lifesaving information right in the hands of people whenever and wherever they need it. The expert advice in Red Cross apps, which also include apps for First Aid, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and other services, has been used to help save lives during disasters and medical emergencies. Red Cross apps have been downloaded on nearly 4 million mobile devices.
The Flood App, along with the others, can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/mobileapps. Apps can help prepare people for disasters, but they are not a substitute for training. Red Cross First Aid and CPR/AED training empowers people to know how to respond to emergencies in case advanced medical help is delayed. People can visit redcross.org/takeaclass for course information and to register.