March 3 through March 9 is “National Severe Weather Awareness Week,” and the unofficial start of tornado season. To kick things off, the Red Cross launched a new tool to help warn and protect people against on-coming tornadoes.
NewsCenter 16’s Frank Waugh notes that a tornado can strike in a matter of minutes and with little warning. In their wake, tornadoes leave communities and lives splintered and scattered for miles.
But now there is a new voice of hope for those falling in the path of a storm.
"Social media has been such a game changer when it comes to disaster response and disaster preparedness,” said Red Cross spokesperson Laura Howe.
The Red Cross introduced a free smartphone app that provides people with early warnings right to their mobile devices.
The app’s alarm will even sound while a person is asleep or when the phone is turned off.
"That is so key to let you know that you need to get up, get out of bed and take your family to your safe place inside your house,” Howe added.
Experts say the app can be crucial in storms where seconds can determine whether a not someone can make it to safety.
According to Chris Vaccaro, a National Weather Service spokesman, "When you have a specific tornado bearing down on your specific community that's where apps come into play here to protect life and property.”
The app does not stop with early warnings, it provides real-time information on where to get gas, supplies and shelter if needed, which Howe notes is essential in times of emergencies.
Also essential is letting loved ones know that their family members and friends have survived.
Howe explained that after a tornado passes, users can press an “I’m safe” button on the app which spreads the word that a person has made it through.
“That's gonna send a message to your Facebook friends, to your twitter followers to your e-mail contacts and text messages to your loved ones to let them know that you are safe and out of harm’s way,” Howe added.
Now, the help to get out of harm’s way is just a click away. The Red Cross tornado app is available in the Apple store and the Google Play store, or by going to redcross.org/mobileapps.