Amidst the devastation that has been left in the wake of hurricane Harvey, the degree of urgency in preparation and proactive measures has skyrocketed for many. Beyond physical forms of protection to include moats, sandbags, and barriers, many electronic devices can be utilized in conjunction with physical barriers to assist with communication and even survival. For this reason, the mobile app space has been critical for emergency response teams and those affected by the storms.
One of the apps that have risen to the top charts given its use in helping first responders and those in need communicate is Zello, a walkie talkie like app that requires only an internet connection. As number 1 on the App Store as a result of the hurricanes which have devastated a large part of Texas, many uses beyond basic communication can be realized from the app. Instead of needing to purchase expensive and large walkie talkies which require batteries and are limited to the number of connected devices that are able to communicate with each other, Zello lets users either join existing channels or create their own, deviating from the traditional two-way radios.
See how to add a contact, talk, and send location and alerts using Zello in this quick start video.
Simple to use, all that a user is required to do is click a single button to communicate with those who are on the channel. As the messages can be sent similar to a voice mail, even during times when the receiver is not available, they are able to listen to the message at later points, something that is not possible with traditional radios. Furthermore, as Zello utilizes data instead of radio frequencies, they are able to communicate with people from all over the world instead of being limited to certain areas.
In terms of emergencies, special channels can be opened up for specific regions or neighbourhoods so that the community on the channel are able to communicate with each other quickly and without a network. Highly applicable to emergency situations, one of the factors that has significantly helped the app gained popularity is the ability for first-responders to be able to communicate with those who are stranded and may need help when phone lines and networks are unavailable. Even beyond first-responders, volunteers are able to help those who are in need without requiring special equipment to communicate.
Cross functional in nature, very few restrictions exist in terms of usability as both iOS and Android users can talk to one another. Even without a WiFi source, the app is functional on a simple data plan so that even slow internet can relay the message to those who need to hear it. As nearly everybody has a smartphone, the app is an extremely useful tool that can save lives in the most extreme cases. With the Irma hurricane expected to be the most powerful ever recorded in history, the app is expected to gain a large number of users before, during, and after it makes landfall. Highly recommended for those who are in the Caribbean, Florida, and areas where traditional methods of communicating with first responders is not possible, Zello is a tool which has few requirements but can potentially save lives.