Emergency Information at your Fingertips

Editor: We’re fortunate that both mainstream and hearing loss organizations are providing tools to help keep us informed about emergencies in our area. Here’s Dana Mulvany with her thoughts on some of these products and services.

I recently downloaded the free Weatherbug software program while installing a new version of RealPlayer and was very pleasantly surprised to learn that it will provide a visual (and chirping) alert to NOAA alerts and Department of Homeland Security alerts on your desktop. Thus this will alert you much faster to an emergency than emails you receive in your inbox but might not read right away.

Another nice benefit of this program is how easy it is to change your “home” city and thus receive alerts from the above sources for that city; when you travel to another location temporarily, you can thus change your “home” city so that you receive alerts for the city that you’re in.

One of the few drawbacks of the otherwise helpful and free Emergency Email Network system (http://www.emergencye.com) is that you can now only sign up for one location per email address, so it’s not set up to be able to notify travelers of emergencies in their immediate vicinity. With Weatherbug, however, you can easily take charge of receiving alerts, and you’ll have some motivation to do so as the program continually tells you about the outside temperature of your designated “home” city in the toolbar.

I’d prefer if Weatherbug’s visual alert was larger; it only flashes the icon in the toolbar. But I just decided to change my computer settings in the “Accessibility Settings” in “Control Panel” so that the entire desktop monitor will flash when there’s a sound (I often mute my computer to avoid disturbing my cat!).

This free program is available from http://www.weatherbug.com/. There’s also a paid version.

(Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in the company that makes Weatherbug. I can’t promise this won’t crash your computer; I think I had trouble installing it previously with Netscape Navigator, but I haven’t had problems with it this time around. Be sure to shut down other programs when installing it.)

If you’re aware of other free software programs that provide an immediate alert to NOAA and DHS alerts, please let us know!

Do sign up to receive emails from the recently launched Community Emergency Preparedness Information Network (CEPIN) Project, which is specifically geared towards the needs of deaf and hard of hearing people. The web site is at http://www.cepintdi.org/. The CEPIN staff just produced an issue discussing emergency notifications and encouraging us to ask our U.S. senators to support the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act in the U.S. Senate. “That act proposes to “establish a network for the transmission of alerts across a broad variety of media.” This includes cell phones, pagers, PDA, and computers – any device that receives text messaging or other possible alerting systems as well. The proposed legislation also states that the system shall “include mechanisms and technologies to ensure that members of the public with disabilities are able to receive alerts and information provided by the System.”