ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. -- Orange County is hoping iPhones and iPads will protect and help its residents in the event of a hurricane in the Summer of 2011.
Orange County is the first government in the nation to design an application (app) for natural disasters. So, when your power goes out and the weather radio isn’t working, Mayor Teresa Jacobs said the free app will be your lifeline during a storm. Officials confirmed that when hurricanes Charlie, Jean and Frances hit Orange County in 2004, some people didn't have power for weeks. Officials said that made it difficult to get vital information to the public.
Orange County resident Betty Hood lives in the Gulfstream Harbor mobile home park, a senior community. She said she doesn't want to relive that experience.
“We can't keep up with what's going on, especially if we lose power,” said Hood.
Orange County spent $5,000 to develop the software for a new app that you can download to your iPhone or iPad for free. It only took a few weeks to get licensing secured through Apple.
The app is called OCFL Alerts. Officials said it will provide real time weather alerts, information on evacuation routes, flood zones, neighborhoods with damage and everything else you need to know during a storm.
“It may be the only way you can get information, through your cell phone,” said Jacobs.
Officials said if the cell phone towers go down, the application on the iPhone or iPad stores all the information you need. So you can still have access to alerts, where to find sandbags and which shelters opened up near your home.
Orange County officials believe the app will help them reach a new generation of people. Leaders in other cities have already inquired to find out how they can develop similar apps.
“We're looking for apps for other purposes, to get people more engaged,” said Jacobs.
You can start downloading the app on Wednesday. Officials are still working to develop apps for other smart phones. So, if you don't have an iPhone or iPad you can receive some of the alerts via text message.