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American Red Cross adds adhesive to emergencies via smartwatch-optimized app

The American Red Cross is ramping up to reach a wider audience by rolling out an all-inclusive Emergency application 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.

The 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.

?Mobile is an extremely important channel for the Red Cross,? said Alyssa Dreikorn, Emergency app team lead at American Red Cross, Ridgewood, NJ. ?We used to hand out tearsheets with emergency information during times of disasters.

?Now people download information on their mobile devices. We can put information that people need into their hands at the touch of a button,? she said.

?Mobile saves lives and that?s what the Red Cross is all about.?

A go-to source
Red Cross hopes its new app will become a go-to source for people experiencing unexpected situations, which can range from hurricanes and thunderstorms to home fires. Users can also send alerts to loved ones when a disastrous event is expected to affect their community, and check on their safety status via the Family Safe feature.

?The Red Cross conducted a survey in 2012 that found mobile apps tied with social media as the fourth-most popular way to get information during emergencies,? Ms. Dreikorn said. ?At that time it ranked behind TV, radio and online news.

?Now everybody uses apps and we have been able to take advantage of this by assimilating preparedness information in a unique way.?

Family Safe enables the consumer to send an update to friends or family in a disaster-struck area, with the recipient immediately being able to view alert details as well as a step-by-step plan of what to do. He or she can then respond with ?I?m safe? or ?I?m not safe.?

The feature is accessible for those who do not have the Emergency app downloaded.

Family Safe, which is set to become available for the Apple Watch upon the wearable?s release on April 24, will likely translate well to the smaller-screen of the device. If users in an emergency situation do not happen to have their phones handy, they can easily press a button to assure their relatives that they are safe.

?Although many people use their cell phones to tell time, there is an equal amount of people who still wear a watch ? myself included,? Ms. Dreikorn said. ?The launch of the Apple Watch is indicative of a trend towards wearable technology, and it?s important for organizations like ours, ones on the forefront of safety, to keep up with the technology that people are ? or will be ? using.?

Accessible first aid
Offering consumers a one-stop destination for all of their first aid needs is a smart move by the American Red Cross, as mobile users may be too frazzled to sift through pages of searches or information when attempting to help with an emergency situation.

Using the Emergency app, individuals will be able to receive quick access to advice on dealing with heart attacks, heat-related situations and water safety. The information is also all pre-loaded, so that users can access the expertly-aggregated tools even if they do not have mobile connectivity.

If users need to evacuate their homes for any reason, they may look up the nearest Red Cross shelter locations as well as relevant weather information.

Other features include a home fire section with prevention tips, and a ?Make a Plan? section for families to plan how to act and where to go in a disaster situation.

The Emergency app is free to download for iOS and Android platforms, and is available in English and Spanish.

?When we tested the app with users, three features really stood out,? Ms. Dreikorn said. ?People really like the ?Family Safe? feature, which allows them to know if those they care about are okay in an emergency with just the touch of a button.

?Testers who spoke Spanish appreciated the ability to easily toggle between English and Spanish content because they liked being able to use the language they?re most comfortable with in a stressful situation. I personally like being able to customize my weather alerts in various locations with personal photos of the person who lives there.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York