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How mobile is changing the way we respond to disasters

As Hurricane Matthew bears down on southern United States and Haiti is left in ruins, mobile technologies are offering assistance with brands leveraging digital platforms to help out those in need. 

Mobile is making it easier for consumers to stay in touch and manage necessary precautions during natural disasters thanks to advancement in technology. Many brands and media such as NewsON, Walgreens, CNN and Florida?s State Emergency Response team are using these new technologies to help out consumers in affected areas with whatever they may need, without the hope of financial gain. 

"Today, with stronger wireless networks and the current generation of smartphones, we can not only deliver text messaging, but also very compelling experiences for watching video and reading stories related to the event," said Louis Gump, CEO of NewsON. "People now routinely rely on their news organizations for information while on the go.

"In fact, mobile consumption is larger than PC-based consumption at most news organizations based on recent reports," he said. "Further people can stay in touch ? not just directly via phone and text, but also via social media."

Mobile assistance
Whether it is text messages to keep consumers up to date or fast tracking prescription refills prior to the storm?s arrival, individuals in areas where Hurricane Matthew has hit can use all the assistance they can get from major companies willing to help out. 

For instance, streaming news application NewsOn is launching a campaign to help relief efforts for those hurt while also keeping the focus on on-going coverage for others still feeling Matthew?s wrath. The media platform is donating $1 to hurricane relief efforts for every download seen. 


CNN and Florida?s State Emergency Response team are also helping by serving mobile users information via SMS to provide up to date news. 

Florida's State Response SMS program 

CNN is taking the opposite approach by leveraging WhatsApp to gather information instead of send out content. Users can message +44 7435 939 154 on WhatsApp to share their pictures and information for CNN to gain better coverage of the storm. 

As Walgreens closed down in areas hit by Hurricane Matthew, the drugstore prepared its customers by reminding users to refill their prescriptions prior to the storm?s arrival, which can be done faster through its mobile app. 

American financial service Western Union is offering free-of-charge transfers to those sending funds to Haiti on its mobile app and Web site, in an effort to support assistance to the badly affected country. Western Union is also accepting donations through its app, hoping in to usher in more donations by making it extremely accessible to users. 

"The ability to send money transfers via mobile app ensures access and convenience, so our customers can provide support and relief to those in need without leaving home, which is important as Hurricane Matthew is moving toward South Florida, where much of the US Haitian Community resides," said Mariano Dall?Orso, senior vice president and general manager for Mexico, Canada and Caribbean at Western Union. "Mobile has also allowed those in need to communicate with their loved ones who are in a position to send and send from the convenience of the WU app making the sending of funds and communicating the funds to pick-up happen within moments. 

"Important to mention also that donations to MercyCorp can be made through WU retail and app, helping with the relief efforts.," he said. 

Beefing up mobile
Insurance provider Geico ramped up awareness of its updated mobile app by offering consumers valuable tips and information to kick off National Hurricane Preparedness Week, reflecting mobile's growing role for disaster preparedness and relief information back in May. 

As the nation first headed into hurricane season this year, Geico recommended that families resist being complacent and engage in proactive measures to safeguard their homes, which includes checking on home insurance coverage. Interested consumers may visit Geico?s mobile app to report a claim at any time, and also receive quotes for automotive insurance (see more). 

The American Red Cross similarly ramped up to reach a wider audience by rolling out an all-inclusive Emergency app for smartphones and smartwatches that offers quick access to weather alerts, first aid information and local shelter locations in case of disaster, proving that relief organizations have a home on mobile.

ARC?s Emergency app aims to combine content from the Red Cross?s previous mobile apps with additional relevant information on how best to act when faced with 14 different types of disasters or emergencies. Users can also select to receive more than 35 customizable mobile alerts based on their location and where their relatives or friends are located, suggesting that geo-located SMS functions are important for disaster relief organizations (see more). 

"There is a strong opportunity for us to use mobile as a way to drive donations via mobile," said Mr. Gump, CEO of NewsON. "The Mobile Giving Foundation and other organizations have been very active in tapping mobile as a tool for directing resources to the people and communities that need them."