As hurricane season begins, two new free personal preparedness applications go live on Facebook to help people support each other during an emergency and become better prepared by identifying lifelines.
Lifelines are Facebook friends a user can count on and who agree to check on them in an emergency, supply them with shelter, food, or other necessities, or provide the user’s social network with an update about their situation.
“After disasters, a tremendous number of people use Facebook to post and share information, so developing a Facebook app that would help people establish social connections they’ll need in an emergency seemed like a natural way to enhance community and individual resilience,” explains Dr. Nicole Lurie, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ assistant secretary for preparedness and response, and a rear admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service.
The two apps, bReddi and Project: Lifeline, do more than allow users to identify lifelines. They also let users create and share personal preparedness plans, and track the status of their Facebook friends in disaster-affected areas. Both apps achieve the goals of helping families and friends to plan more easily, being better prepared when a disaster strikes, and more reliably and efficiently getting the word out about each others' health and safety.
This capability means people can more easily learn whether their loved ones are safe, helping the people affected by the disaster and those searching for missing people. The apps also allow users to print cards with a snapshots of their preparedness plans to carry in their wallets as quick references about what to do when a disaster strikes.
“The question is, who can you count on in an emergency and who can count on you?” Dr. Lurie said. “We know that people who have friends or relatives they can rely on for help are healthier and live longer than those who don’t, and that every disaster has the potential to impact health, so having people you can depend on for help is especially important during a disaster. That’s why we are encouraging everyone to identify their lifelines in advance.”
These apps were winners of a challenge sponsored by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). It was the first challenge for a Facebook application to be sponsored by the department.
After a thorough search of Facebook revealed a lack of personal preparedness apps, ASPR issued the Facebook Lifeline Application Challenge to bridge the gap. The challenge called on software application developers, entrepreneurs, social networking enthusiasts, and members of the public health and emergency response communities to design new Facebook applications that would support individual and community resilience.
HHS is the principal federal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. To learn more about HHS, visit www.hhs.gov.
ASPR leads HHS in preparing the nation to respond to and recover from adverse health effects of emergencies, supporting communities’ ability to withstand adversity, strengthening health and response systems, and enhancing national health security. To learn more about ASPR and preparedness, response and recovery from the health impacts of disasters, visit the HHS public health and medical emergency website, www.phe.gov and follow preparedness and response activities on Facebook, www.facebook.com/phegov.