By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
NEW YORK — You may remember a few weeks ago, I wrote about a set of PSAs released by FEMA that used the Emergency Alert System two tone attention signal. I also stated that warnings on your cell phone were something I didn’t ask for and there is no way to get rid of this app.
Well, I just found an app that is a helluva lot more useful than what FEMA has mandated on your cell phone in regards to weather warnings. And, it has great potential to be a tool for your broadcast operation, whether you’re on the street reporters, newsroom, or just the announcers and jocks are equipped with it.
The app is available for iPhones and Android devices, and is called Alert FM.
As downloaded, the app is free. On initial setup, you enter in your zip code, then select which weather warnings you wish to receive for that location. The coding we receive through EAS is called a FIPS code. EAS messages, weather warnings included, come down to the county level. I live in Orange County, NY. If something is moving into Orange County, even if it’s at the far corner of the county and will not reach my location, I would receive an alert. Personally, I find it annoying to receive a Severe Thunder Storm Warning when it’s sunny out. But with FIPS codes, you can only get down to the county level.
Alert FM utilizes the deeper data found in most National Weather Service alerts that cannot be transmitted through EAS. It goes down to the zip code level, so if an event will affect your general area, you will receive the alert.
Of course, this is the free version.
It you pay $9.95 for the premium version, you can set the app to track where you are through the internal GPS on your SmartPhone. So if you’re in Western Walla-Walla, even though you may have set your home zip code as one of your locations (you get up to five locations and “locate me” with the pay version), you will receive an alert for where you are at present.
Other useful features of the app are weather forecasts and weather radar. All at the push of a button on your SmartPhone. If you are covering a storm or really heavy rain, for instance, this would be an excellent tool for your street people to have available.
I believe Alert FM may also be working on adding EAS data to the app. If this happens, this makes this an essential tool for broadcast professionals. It’s our job to inform the public about hazardous situations. This is one more tool to have at your disposal.
Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB is president of Tom Ray Consulting and Technical Editor of TALKERS. He can be phoned at 845-418-5065 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.tomrayconsulting.com.