Over the last several years we have seen examples of how mobile communications, whether its text messaging or social apps like Twitter, have been used to share information during emergencies and disasters. A problem exists, however, in that with the information spread across multiple sites you can spend a significant amount of time seeking out information. Elerts is a mobile app and service that aims to make it easier for citizens to share information about emergencies, and make it easy for first responders to receive and use the information provided.
Elerts is a free iPhone app and an Android version is in development. When you start the app for the first time, you will be asked what is your role, and the options include, Emergency Manager, First Responder, Media, and Private Citizen.
The primary source of emergency alerts is crowdsourcing from other users. You can configure the app to only receive alerts from a specific source. One of the sources displays earthquakes that occur all over the world, which is interesting to see how often earthquakes occur each day.
Elerts uses the location services on the iPhone to identify and display alerts near your location. You can configure the app to provide alerts for specific cities and colleges throughout the United States. Alerts display in a list in the app and can also be displayed on a map.
While being able to see alerts is useful in itself, the other purpose of Elerts is to provide information about emergency situations. In order to provide reports you need to register and you are warned that providing false reports can get you kicked off the service.
When you select the reporting function, the camera first loads for you to take a picture, then you see a form on which you select the type of report, enter a subject and a message. The reports that you submit are sent to the Elert service to be shared with other people using the app.
It is important to know that Elerts is not a substitute for calling 911. First responders will not be notified about the emergency situation via the Elerts app. In the case of an actual emergency, first be sure authorities have been notified, that any first aid that is needed is being provided, and then use Elerts.