WV Press InSight Videos

New emergency app built to spread across WV

Herald-Dispatch photo by Lori Wolfe Mayor Steve Williams joins representatives of SynTech Creative on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, at Huntington City Hall, to discuss the new and improved Heads Up! Emergency, which is now available as a free download in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.
Herald-Dispatch photo by Lori Wolfe
Mayor Steve Williams joins representatives of SynTech Creative on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, at Huntington City Hall, to discuss the new and improved Heads Up! Emergency, which is now available as a free download in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A new smartphone app is making it easier for residents across West Virginia to receive alerts in the event of an emergency or disaster.

Representatives with SynTech Creative, a full-service IT and marketing company in Huntington, unveiled the app, Heads Up! Emergency, during a press conference Thursday in City Hall.

Rodney Pell, senior account executive with SynTech Creative, said the app is an updated version of the Heads Up! Huntington app, which was launched about three years ago.

 He said the purpose of the app is to allow city officials including police, fire, emergency medical services and more to efficiently convey information to the public about incidents such as road closures, boil water advisories, school closings, area-wide health alerts and others and to reassure them that the situation is being handled.

“Most people’s day-to-day lives get affected on so many different levels when an emergency happens, and what we want to do is we want people to have the ability to be prepared for that, whether it’s a boil water advisory, an accident or a school closure,” Pell said.

Pell said the idea for this app came four years ago when a violent storm called a derecho ripped through West Virginia, leaving more than 670,000 homes and businesses without power for a week as well as most types of communication.

He said he remembers many people charging their smartphones in their cars and frantically looking for any information that could update them on what was going on and where to get help.

Pell said he watched many struggle to find this vital information, all the while thinking there had to be a better way, thus Heads Up! Huntington was created.

Systems in other geographic areas across West Virginia soon followed, and total downloads among all systems have exceeded 100,000.

Seeing the boom in users, Pell said they began working on an application that would incorporate all Heads Up! systems into one free and easy-to-use app.

“We realized this was something that people actually wanted,” Pell said. “They wanted to be able to receive local information from local trusted authorities in a very rapidly disseminated way.”

With the new app, Pell said users have the option to receive messages from multiple areas.

 “That way, if you have family or friends that live in a different area, you can still receive the same information that they do by downloading one app,” he said. “Another unique feature of this app is all of the entities, Huntington police, state police, schools, health department, can go into one system and make one alert that goes out to everybody,” Pell said.

With the new app, users also have the ability to share alerts to social media, view documents and photos, add events to a personal calendar for reminders and even choose which type of alerts they would like to receive.

In West Virginia, there are five counties – Cabell, Hancock, Mercer, Raleigh and Wayne – utilizing Heads Up! Emergency, but Pell said the system has the capability to be in counties across all 50 states.

“This system is built to help people receive information that they need during a crisis,” he said.

The app is available as a free download from the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store or by going to www.headsupemergency.com.

 See more from The Herald-Dispatch. 

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