The American Red Cross has released a free mobile app to help people stay aware of wildfire danger.
The app gives users instant access to a so-called “blaze tracker” that issues alerts when conditions are favorable for wildfires and when a wildfire has begun within 100 miles of any location designated by the user. Users can also monitor multiple locations to keep up-to-date with what might be happening in a region susceptible to wildfires where friends or family live.
"A lot of information about wildfires is really hard to get and to take in. Wildfires are big, covering hundreds of acres, and also really fast-moving... [This app] actually even allows you to see the path of a fire, where its perimeter is, and what's happening. And that really makes the information about these big fires a little easier to digest," Sara Kennedy, Director of Communications for American Red Cross Central Texas Region, says.
And, in case of emergency, the app gives locations of open Red Cross shelters and allows users to alert friends and family of their safety with the click of a button.
"It can really overwhelm the local infrastructure if everyone is calling and trying to make sure their friends and loved ones are okay," Kennedy says. "But you can push this little button on the top of the screen with a thumbs up and you can put it out on all your social networks, you can send it as a text to every contact and you can make everyone aware that you're okay."
So what if mobile service isn’t available during a disaster?
“Once you’ve downloaded the app, the information about what to do, how to prepare, what to do if you have to go home after a fire—all of that information is in your phone," Kennedy says. "You don’t need cell service, nothing, you’ve got answers to those super important questions right there."