Mobile App Encourages Preparedness in Arlington

by ARLnow.com November 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm 3,874 35 Comments

Arlington County’s Office of Emergency Management has released a new mobile app called “Arlington Prepares,” for Android and iPhone users.

The free app, which can be downloaded from the Android Marketplace and the Apple App Store, gives residents tips on what to do in the event of specific emergencies, provides a feed of Arlington’s emergency alerts, offers a checklist of emergency supplies and lists information about several emergency-related volunteer opportunities in Arlington.

Among the 10 emergencies covered in the “What Do I Do?” section are tornadoes (“if you are inside, seek a place of refuge such as a basement”), earthquakes (“many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris”), and chemical attacks (“immediately strip and wash… look for a hose, fountain or any source of water”).

The app was developed “in-house” by the Arlington Office of Emergency Management and Department of Technology Services. There’s currently no plan to launch an app for Blackberry devices.

  • Carmen

    I guess no one cares if those of us who own blackberries are prepared.

    • AllenB

      Blackberry will be out of business in two years. Switch.

      • YoBimbo

        Actually, Carmen is right. Nobody cares about BlackBerry users. The secret is out.

        • AllenB

          And the reason no one cares is because they’ll be out of business soon. Have you seen how much their market share is spiraling down?

          • Carl

            That is still no reason for Arlington to ignore them. Arlington is the hero of the disadvantaged, after all.

          • AllenB

            Correct – I’d agree that anyone still using a blackberry is disadvantaged. And on the serious side, it’s not just Arlington that ignores app development for blackberries – most others do as well.

          • Carl

            Yes, but most of the time that is a free market decision based on profit margin and/or marketing. In the case of public monies being used to propagate public safety information, there should not be any discrimination based on the market share of some of your constituents. At least in my opinion. Maybe they hold a grudge over RIM’s litigation against a local Arlington company.

          • Zoning Victim

            You’ve got to be kidding, Carl; do you have any idea how much money would be wasted if every municipality that decided to build an app had to build one for every phone OS on the market? Should they have written one for Windows 7 phone with their big 2% market share? Or Bada with their 2% market share. They didn’t even write one for Symbian (22%), which has almost double the market share of RIM (12%). I’m glad they didn’t build one for any of these fringe apps markets.

    • Rick

      It might have something to do with the new OS coming soon.

  • DCV

    For all disasters, I hope it recommends going to the grocery store to get bread and milk.

    • NorthArlingTim

      aaaah! you forgot the all-important TP!

    • Maria

      And eggs! For “Disaster French Toast”

  • billj

    I am a little concerned about the permissions it requires… Especially if it is just a FYI app (which is appears to be)

    Allows an application to create network sockets.
    Allows an application to read all of the contact (address) data stored on your device. Malicious applications can use this to send your data to other people.
    Allows an application to modify the contact (address) data stored on your device. Malicious applications can use this to erase or modify your contact data.
    Allows the application to access the phone features of the device. An application with this permission can determine the phone number and serial number of this phone, whether a call is active, the number that call is connected to and the like.
    Allows an application to write to the USB storage. Allows an application to write to the SD card.
    Allows an application to get the list of accounts known by the device.
    Allows an application to view the state of all networks.

    • MB

      BillJ – that is an *excellent* point. Thanks for sharing. Until now, I was planning to load the app and check it out. But these permissions? Unless the app is waaaay more functional than I can imagine, there’s just no reason for that.

      Also, yeah. Sorry, BB users, you’re gonna end up dead.


      Former Palm Loyalist

      • Blair

        I installed it and then removed it. Not because of the permissions but because it is useless to me. It is nothing more than some reference material and one update page that shows the stream of county alerts, which I already get through email and sms.

    • Daniel

      Pretty standard app permissions… Try going into the app a little deeper. There’s more going on than just links and reference material. I’m currently loading in my medical info which will be followed by the rest of my family’s info (blood type, allergies, etc). Pretty handy to have, and goes along with the Z card I picked up last time I was in the county building.


    Will preparedness for a zombie apocalypse be addressed?

  • JohnB
  • novasteve

    It probably has embeded subliminal messages telling you to vote for democrats.

  • BillJ ought to talk to Google and Apple because every smart phone connects to the web the same way, its not the APP it is how smartphones work. Of course could eliminate all wireless phones and have the super committee mandate only land lines. Then again Bill is probably a member of the super committee looking for something to do.

    • MB

      Entirely untrue. Loads of Android apps work just find without that range of access. I don’t think it’s any nefariousness on the part of the developer – just incompetence.

      • frankr

        mb, you are as clueless as billj, you must be an up and coming sandal wearing arlngtonian

    • Zoning Victim

      Yeah, you’re missing the point as MB said. Every phone can do all of those things, but it’s up to the developer to restrict their app from having access to the things it doesn’t need. Every app you install will notify you what it has access to, and everything it can access is a potential security threat if a hacker figures out how to exploit a vulnerability in the app. So in other words, the app developer screwed up by allowing the app access to things it doesn’t need.

  • TGEoA

    If this cost the taxpayers a thin dime to develop, I hope the doucehbag who approved it gets fired.

    • Zoning Victim

      Since it was written in house, it probably cost more than a dime.

    • Daniel

      The DB that’s trying to help people think about readiness?

  • JimPB

    What if an A-bomb explodes around the center of government — what then?

    The electro-magnetic pulse will wipe out computers, so little in the area will work. So, no clogged roads, no overcrowded Metro. No jammed phone lines. All this may well not matter.

    Much of ArlCo will be physically devastated, and more of those in ArlCo at the time will be killed immediately, or will die subsequently from the bomb effects.

    Makes one appreciate: For all their shortcomings and hassles, things function pretty well and life is generally good. Be thankful.

  • Sgt. Hartman

    It might be interesting but for that awful ARLCO logo cluttering up my screen.

  • SomeGuy

    What’s the point?

    All of this information is available on the County’s emergency preparedness HTML-based web site here:

    With a neatly packaged self-contained PDF guide here:

    But suddenly it’s cool because they compiled it into form that’s only readable by a “smart phone,” and which also requires the development effort it takes to make the “app” compatible with multiple platforms.

    Meanwhile, the HTML web site likely works on all smart phone and non-smart phone platforms just fine.

    But I guess it’s cool because it’s an “app.”

    • Zoning Victim

      You know I agreed with that at one point and said the same thing in my company when they planned to build an app that mimicked functionality we already had out on the web, but I was totally wrong. People loved the app and downloaded thousands upon thousands of copies of it. I’m not debating the merits of government spending money to put out apps containing information they already have on the web, but I am saying that the simple fact that something already exists on the web is no reason not to build an app, too, if reaching the maximum number of people or portability of the information/functionality is one of your goals. I haven’t seen the app, but if all it does is feed some static responses to selections, it probably didn’t cost much to build it.

      • SomeGuy

        I do understand that, and you have a perfectly valid point re: reaching the most consumers. I guess it’s more that I think the end users aren’t the most critical of thinkers (sheep maybe?) if they think that packaging the exact same thing in a “hip” Steve Jobs endorsed way makes it somehow more palatable.

        I kinda think the whole concept of an app, which is often just a repackaging of something that’s readily available in a mobile browser, has some scam-like qualities, so my commentary speaks more to that. (I’m thinking of apps that perform purely web based functions but require the user to part with, say $1.99 to download it in the app format.) Granted, there are some apps that take advantage of smart phone features that just aren’t available to a mobile browser, and I’m excluding those from my commentary. But the vast majority of apps just package a single-feature website into something that people explicitly download (often at a cost) instead of simply bookmarking a URL that does the same damn thing.

        It’s great for the app purveyors if they can make money on people this way. I just think it’s often foolish for the end users. Not always, but often.

        Then again, I think the same about $5 cupcakes, $30 pizzas, and $20 cycling classes, so I could just be out of touch with how the kids view a hard-earned dollar these days.

        • Zoning Victim

          haha, I agree with you about some apps and definitely agree with your sentiments about cupcakes and pizzas, but apps do also have some advantages over using the web browser, the biggest of which is speed. Page downloads for pages with images just crawl over 3G by comparison to app speeds.

      • 4Arl

        The app will reach more people, but at a cost. Ordinarily a company may devote resources to app development to gain or preserve market share. But for a local government it is more likely they did it for the cool factor, something to pat themselves on the back. Costs are just spread out over everyone else.

    • Daniel

      well, you can store the app on your phone or microSD card and access the information that you put in without a wireless or 3G connection. You’d be in a hole if you relied on going to the website, and the PDF isn’t perfect either, since you’d have to figure out a way to personalized it, Save-As, and email it to yourself to download onto your phone.


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