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Emergency Management Provides Updates with ‘Ready Virginia’ App - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Emergency Management Provides Updates with ‘Ready Virginia’ App

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As more and more people turn to mobile devices for up-to-the-minute information during bad weather, emergency agencies are taking notice. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management says hundreds of people downloaded its smartphone app this week alone.

The department's Ready Virginia app is still fairly new, only in its first year. Emergency management says social media has become the new frontier for how it does business.

"Just in the last 18 months or so, we have seen the use of mobile devices really explode," said Laura Southard, the department's public outreach coordinator.

She says since the department has beefed up its social media presence, there has been a huge change in outreach.

"By using the technology that's available, we can communicate 24/7 with people. We don't have to wait to have a news conference and pull everyone together. We can start posting information immediately," Southard said.

Getting the facts out fast is in large credit to Ready Virginia. The free app launched in January allows users to make an emergency plan, receive alerts from their county's notification system, and get an updated feed of what's happening on the roads.

"Each time we get an incident in Virginia, a major incident, we will run a blog where we post a lot of information, videos, pictures about what's going on. That blog feed goes into the Ready Virginia App," Southard said.

So far, 12,000 people have downloaded the app, and the numbers are growing.

"And just within the last week, we've seen about 600 of those downloads come in so we know that people are paying attention," Southard said.

Moving forward, the department says meeting people where they are is critical.

"The more information people have, the more in control of the situation they are and the more confident they are of getting through it safely, so whatever means we can use to share information with people in Virginia, that's what we want to do," Southard said.

The Department of Emergency Management says the challenge now is updating the app. It's looking into adding alerts from the National Weather Service, and also finding a way to let users chat with each other.

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