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@HHSGov During #Isaac: Use the bReddi
Facebook app

Sitting in my San Francisco office right now, it’s hard to imagine that across the country one of my favorite cities is getting pounded by tropical storm Isaac’s heavy rain and wind. The people of New Orleans and their neighbors in the Gulf know an unfortunate reality: each hurricane season they’re at risk of getting hit with life threatening storms. Over on the West Coast we’re on alert for wildfires during the summer, and personally ― as an East Coast transplant ― I have earthquake fears in the back of my mind.

While people in different areas of the country know their regional natural disaster risks, thankfully most people don’t go about each day fearing the worst. But emergency response professionals know it helps to make sure that people are at least prepared for the worst. For example, in San Francisco the fire department hosts Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) training, which teaches the basics of personal preparedness and how to help others in the case of an emergency.

In the online community there are applications that encourage a similar neighbor-helping-neighbor emergency response. Last year the national Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) put out a call for the design of an app that has people use Facebook to identify their lifelines, or people they’d reach out to during an emergency. One of the resulting apps called bReddi has users designate roles among their online friends and family and provides alerts on threat levels within that friend and family network.

We’ve talked about another app called Project: Lifeline on Health 2.0 News before. It won Health 2.0′s and ASPR’s Facebook Challenge earlier this year. The app lets users update theirs and their lifelines’ Facebook statuses during an emergency in order to keep track of who’s safe and who could be missing. Lifeline officially launched a few months ago, intentionally in time for hurricane season. @CDCEmergency and @HHSGov promoted the apps yesterday on Twitter just as Isaac bore down on the Gulf coast. While both apps are new and probably don’t have a long list of users yet, there’s never a bad time to sign up.