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New Red Cross app could be lifeline for flood victims

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The potential for spring flooding in Carlton County is something both government and residents will be keeping a close eye on in coming weeks. With area snowdrifts as high as six or seven feet in parking lots, along city streets, and in residential yards and rural woodlands, it’s difficult to keep thoughts of the 2012 flood at bay. Though that particular event was caused by intense and prolonged rainfall, any sudden infusion of water can cause storm sewers to back up, waterways to overflow their banks and groundwater to rise.

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This year the American Red Cross, which provides shelter, food and emotional support in times of natural disasters, has decided to do something proactive before the spring flooding season gets underway. Last week the Red Cross launched a new Flood App for certain personal computer/smart phone devices to help save lives and reduce losses from floods.

The 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 app includes location-based, audible NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) flood and flash flood watches and warnings that sound even if the app is closed.

“We’ve learned that people love to have free apps,” said Red Cross spokesperson Lynette Nyman, “especially ones such as this that are helpful and provide valuable resources they can use.”

Nyman said the new flood app is preloaded, so there is no Wi Fi access the user must first get into before they can secure the information, which could be vitally important during a flood event when systems began to shut down.

Other features of the app include:

  •  One-touch “I’m safe” messaging that allows users to send a message letting family and friends know they are out of harm’s way;
  •  Preloaded content that gives users instant access to critical action steps;
  •  A 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.

Nyman said since the flood app was released last week during National Flood Safety Awareness Week, some 4,000 people have already downloaded it, with the potential for many, many more.

“Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States,” said Dan Williams, community chapter executive of the Northland and North Star chapters of the American Red Cross. “Following the devastating flash flooding that hit the Northland in 2012, we know a tool like this new app can help here, too. Today, people can download this free Red Cross app and use it to create emergency plans so that all household members know what to do if flooding threatens.”

The app is just the latest of a series of Red Cross emergency preparedness apps that put life saving information into the hands of the people who need it whenever and wherever they need it. Nyman said the first to be released was a First Aid App in June 2012 which has since been downloaded by nearly 2 million people nationwide. Other apps are geared toward tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes.

The Flood App, along with the others, can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android and searching for American Red Cross, or by going to redcross.org/mobileapps.

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