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American Red Cross Using Technology to Help People Prepare for Hurricane Season

Miami – With new predictions for an above-average 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, the American Red Cross is adding technology to the many ways it helps people to get prepared.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that 12-18 named storms, 6-10 hurricanes and 3-6 major hurricanes will occur this year. The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1, and families can take steps now to create a family emergency plan.

Text, iPhone app and social media join traditional preparedness methods

To make that planning easier, the Red Cross has developed a free iPhone app that gives the location of all open Red Cross shelters. The app not only maps the location of a shelter, but also shows current capacity and population. To download the app, users can visit the Apple store and search “American Red Cross shelters.” For those without an iPhone, the same shelter information also appears on the Red Cross website and can be accessed by visiting www.redcross.org and clicking on “Find a Shelter.” Both are refreshed with updated information every 30 minutes.

In addition, the Red Cross Safe and Well website now allows users to update their Facebook and Twitter status when they register on the site. Safe and Well is a secure way to let your loved ones know where you are going during a hurricane evacuation or that you are “okay” in the aftermath of a disaster. If users choose to do so, they can easily let their entire network of friends and family know they are safe in one step.

“This is an ideal time to get a disaster supply kit ready, make an evacuation plan with your family, and get information on what to do during a hurricane,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president of Red Cross Disaster Services. “It’s also the right time to learn how to locate a shelter or use Safe and Well, and new technology is making it even easier to do that.”

Along with working to prepare people in the U.S., the American Red Cross is working to prepare vulnerable populations in Haiti with training in early warning systems and emergency first aid, as well as other measures, as hurricane season approaches for that country, which is still dealing with the 2010 earthquake that left so many homeless.

More broadly, the global Red Cross network has been working with the Haitian Red Cross to help Haitians better prepare for and respond to disasters. For example, an estimated 5.5 million text messages about ways to prepare for disasters have been sent to Haitians.

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