Mass. launches free mobile app to warn of emergencies and disasters

The state’s Emergency Management Agency launched a new mobile app today that will send notifications about emergencies and disasters to iPhone and Android users, said MEMA spokesman Peter Judge.

“It’s another tool in the tool belt,” Judge said. It’s not going to replace anything, but it gives us a way to more instantly and directly touch people than maybe other ways do.”

The free app, called ping4alerts!, can send text alerts and voicemail messages that include maps and websites, he said.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The app uses GPS technology and other information to locate users in a specific area that is experiencing a possible emergency or disaster, he said.

“It allows us at MEMA to literally draw a box on a map, as big as the state or as small as a house, and anybody within that box would receive a message on their smartphone, particularly during a time of an emergency,” Judge said.

He said app users will not be bombarded with alerts because they only receive information if they are within the area of concern.

Governor Deval Patrick attended the launch at MEMA headquarters in Framingham today.

“We are determined to be prepared to meet any emergency this Commonwealth may face,” Patrick said, according to a statement from his office. “This facility will help.”

MEMA officials will use ping4alerts! to send information from other state agencies, such as the State Police and Department of Public Health, he said.

The National Weather Service will send out weather alerts through the app, but only after a warning of major storms has been issued. Judge said users need not be worried about receiving an alert every time there’s a cloud in the sky.

“This newly added and innovative technology will allow Public Safety entities throughout the Commonwealth to not only alert citizens of an impending problem, but also push out many forms of specific information with detailed steps to help ensure their safety,” said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, according to the statement.

While similar apps have been launched in local communities and college campus across the US, Judge said Massachusetts is the first state offering such a service “whole hog.”

MEMA officials hope to make ping4alerts! available for BlackBerry users by 2013, Judge said.