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Red Cross app helps combat flood fears

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A free, new American Red Cross flood app will give users early warnings about flooding conditions.

Using it could improve chances of avoiding some of the emergency rescues and other last-minute lifesaving measures that unfolded during the Columbus flood of June 7, 2008.

That’s among feedback from area emergency management officials who see the app for iPhone, iPad and Android smartphone users as another tool to promote speedy information dissemination and safety. The tool is available at the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

“I think it could have helped alert people a little quicker,” said Mary Ellen Anable, executive director of the Columbus-based branch of the American Red Cross, referring to people caught in the 2008 flood.

Dennis Moats, emergency management director for Bartholomew County, thinks it might have made a big difference, boding well for future warnings.

“People definitely would have known about possible flooding several hours beforehand and known to be attuned to the media, especially if they knew they were living in a flood-prone area,” Moats said.

Ed Reuter, director of the Bartholomew County Emergency Operations Center, said earlier warning in June 2008 also would have reduced the 4,546 flood-related calls that came into the local 911 center during a 24-hour period.

There were so many calls — as many as 410 per hour at one point — that dispatchers struggled to keep pace.

The flooding damaged more than 2,900 homes locally.

Reuter himself was among those caught unaware. He was preparing for a Saturday nap in the soon-to-be-waterlogged Ironwood Addition shortly before floodwaters began making their way from Indianapolis.

“Even after the water was here in our neighborhood and elsewhere, there were entire segments of the community who had no idea anything of consequence was going on,” Reuter said.

He said that lack of awareness later hurt those residents’ response and safety efforts.

The Red Cross released the app to coincide with National Flood Safety Awareness Week. It also recently released a free tornado alert app.

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