Written by Lt. Cmdr. Zachary Ford
The 2015 Hurricane season is fast approaching. To prepare Coast Guard personnel and their families for the possible hardships brought forth by such ravaging storms, Coast Guard commands across the country are revising contingency plans, executing hurricane exercises, performing training, etc. These planning activities are necessary to ensure Coast Guard personnel and their families have the tools and information necessary to successfully mitigate the many ill effects these storms can cause.
A key component to the exercise, training, and planning process as it relates to hurricane preparedness is ensuring information can be effectively communicated prior to, during, and post event to the masses. As noted in a previous blog post written on the topic of hurricane preparedness, commands must be able to efficiently and effectively pass the information regardless of the time of day. To make certain this occurs, the Coast Guard and most federal, state, and local agencies have adopted mass notification systems to communicate significant safety and security information to their personnel.
The adoption of these tools as the primary means to pass information has been a challenge as it is a vast culture change away from the status quo of laborious phone trees. The Coast Guard has slowly seen the acceptance of its mass notification tool, the Alert and Warning System or AWS. Currently there are more than 170 Coast Guard commands, directorates, etc. now using this tool and its use continues to grow. In 2014 more than 8,000 alerts were sent out using the system.
The use of technology to pass information is not going away. Federal, state, local and private agencies alike are beginning to leverage mobile applications for notification and informational purposes. The use of several new mobile applications developed by the Coast Guard and other Department of Homeland Security agencies can be considered a force multiplier in Hurricane Preparedness. Below are some of the mobile applications to which Coast Guard personnel should consider downloading on their smart phones, tablets, etc. to best prepare themselves and their families for the 2015 Hurricane Season.
AWS MOBILE APP:
The AWS Mobile App is only for Coast Guard Employees (active duty, civilian, and reserve) as well as port partners, Non-Appropriate Fund, and contract employees in possession of a Command Access Card. The AWS mobile app allows AWS alert recipients an easy and efficient means to receive and respond to AWS alerts.
As depicted in Fig. 1, the AWS Mobile App is highly recognizable. If a member receives an alert on the AWS Mobile App there is no confusion to where the alert originated from. Further information for the AWS Mobile App can be found within ALCOAST 002/15.
Instructions for downloading the AWS mobile app can be found on the AWS Portal Page site.
WORK-LIFE MOBILE APP:
The Coast Guard also has a Health Safety and Work Life or HSWL mobile app. This application provides Coast Guard members and their families including retirees, a place to find resource information as it pertains to work-life and family support programs that include but are not limited too: medical services, legal assistance, housing, etc. In the aftermath of a significant storm, much of the resource information found within the app can act as a force multiplier and assist members and their families return to “normal” and put closure on what can often be a horrible situation. To find the complete list of support resources the HSWL mobile app provides, as well as more information on the app, visit Health Safety and Work Life.
The Coast Guard HSWL Mobile App is available in the Apple app store (just search for USCG HSWL) or use the link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/uscg-hswl/id669218420?mt=8. The Android version is available through Google at: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ravensolutions.coastguard&hl=en
FEMA MOBILE APP:
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently updated its mobile app to encourage family and friends alike to stay informed of significant weather events. It also offers safety tips to personnel residing in the geographically affected area. Some of the key features of the application include:
- Receive weather alerts directly from the National Weather Service for any area selected within the app
- Provide various safety tips to personnel seeking guidance on how to prepare for and deal with a variety of significant weather related events
- Direction finder to locate the nearest open shelters and open disaster recovery centers in the event they are needed.
COAST GUARD BOATING SAFEY MOBILE APP:
The Coast Guard recently released a Boating Safety App to jumpstart the National Recreational Boating Safety Week. The many boating safety attributes of the application can also be used to assist personnel prior too, during and after a hurricane has hit an area if people are on the water. Some key features on the app include being able to receive weather reports from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather buoys and an Emergency Assistance button that will immediately contact the closest Coast Guard Command Center. For more information on the Coast Guard mobile app.
Effective communications prior to, during and post significant weather event, like a hurricane, is critical to ensure the safety, security and overall well-being of Coast Guard members and their families. New technology often confronts change “resisters” in many ways, but it is necessary to leverage it in this day and age to ensure the safety, security, and accountability of the entire Coast Guard family.
Mobile apps and other electronic or internet based information may be lost during a storm or significant event. However, the use leading up to the event can often provide invaluable information.
NOTE: The Apps may request a user to turn on location services. Any location information provided by the user is strictly voluntary.
For more information on AWS contact Lt. Cmdr. Zachary Ford at 202-475-5017.