Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), headquartered in Framingham, began using a new first-in-the-nation emergency alerting app as part of its notifications to the public.
Created by a firm in Nashua, NH, Ping4alerts! is a free mobile communications app, that can alert individuals about public safety and public health emergencies.
Hurricane Sandy will give the app its first big test.
MEMA contracted with the New Hampshire company to provide the service to the public. The service is 100 percent anonymous. Mobile numbers or email addresses are not required and the company does not retain information on its users, said CEO and President James Bender.
Through geofencing technology, Ping4alerts! enables MEMA to send highly targeted, instant multimedia alerts to iPhone and Android devices to notify individuals to situations and events happening near them.
Users also get audible alerts, which can wake them up, if an emergency happens while they are sleeping, Bender said. Alerts can include images, video, maps and links to important information, said Bender
Ping4Alerts! has the capability for two-way communication, and users can download the app at www.mass.gov/mema/mobileapp.
One of the advantages of the Ping4Alerts! is that MEMA has the ability to target alerts to a specific location, own to a street or a city block, or as while as a community or the entire Commonwealth.
What makes this useful is that the alerts do not stop at city or town borders. For example, if there was a gas leak at Boston University on the Brookline border, BU Students may receive an alert from the university, but Brookline residents would not. Ping4Alerts could be issued to everyone who downloaded the app, if they're in the area.
Using the Ping4Alerts! means everyone can be notified of an emergency situation at the same time, said Bender.
Earlier this year, the American Red Cross released a Hurricane Safety Information app to Smart Phones as well.
This new smartphone app is just another tool MEMA can use in emergencies in addition it it public alerting system, which includes radio and television alerts through the Emergency Alert System, the Mass211 system, and posts to MEMA’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.