BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - As Florence continues to drop rain and create difficulty for people on the east coast, more and more people are using an app that turns your phone into a two-way radio.
We spoke with Jefferson County EMA Director Jim Coker about that app and others you should download before severe weather hits us.
The app is called Zello, and the Wall Street Journal reports it’s helping connect volunteers with stranded storm victims.
It’s one of many apps Coker said you should download right now, especially with all the severe weather Alabama gets.
“We’re a magnet. We really are. From the coastal storms, to the tornadoes, to the winter weather, we’re even on a earthquake fault line," said Coker. “We have it all.”
And while you may not have the high tech digital radio devices that Jefferson County EMA has, Coker said your phone and the apps that are on it can be just as powerful of a tool.
“Some of the apps that are out there-- FEMA has got a lot of fantastic information there, you need this information. The Red Cross has got several that also has fantastic information,” he said.
Another app that’s gaining attention this hurricane season is called Zello.
“EMA employees have Zello on our cellphones,” said Coker.
It works like a walkie-talkie, or two-way radio.
It’s a push-to-talk app for mobile devices and PCs, with no limits to users or channels.
But, you must have cell service or Wifi.
“This is being taken seriously by the cell service providers,” said Coker. “They’re doing more. They’re putting up more towers. They have portable towers that can be brought in.”
Apps like Facebook will allow you to mark yourself ‘safe’.
“In 2011, after the tornadoes, there were a lot of people initially reported missing. Some of them were not missing. People just didn’t know where they were,” said Coker. “So being able to locate yourself and tell your family where you are goes a long way.”
Zello is free to download.
Coker said if you’re downloading these apps, make sure you have backup batteries for your smartphones.
He said this is just one of several ways to stay in touch during severe weather.