Monday, August 17, 2009

Brace Yourself, Bermuda

Bill is going to be a major hurricane when it passes by the little island of Bermuda in a few days. The only thing we can hope for is that the track continues to shift east. Since the winds are typically strong on the storm's east side, if Bill were to keep Bermuda to his left, the island might not suffer quite as much. It's still going to be bad.

Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast has been spared, for now. Claudette wasn't bad at all and was quickly downgraded after making landfall just after midnight. In Pensacola we had some rain, and it was quite a breezy day, but things weren't bad at all. Ana has dissipated and the National Hurricane Center is no longer issuing updates. It was surprising that Ana developed at all. That system was never really well-organized, which is good news for everyone in its path. Let's hope it continues to fall apart and doesn't re-form.

While hunting for information about these three systems, I discovered a new service which, for the moment at least, is free. Emicus is setting itself up to be a clearinghouse of information from difference community sources. If you're in a disaster area, you can send reports by iPhone or text message. They get feeds from Twitter, they have a tracking map for hurricanes and other dangerous weather situations, they offer checklists for disaster preparedness.... but what made me say, "Cool!" was they offer a quick and easy way to let the people important to you know that you're all right after a disaster.

Here's how it works: register on Emicus and create a list of emergency contacts. You can list phone number/text number/email address. Say a hurricane hits or an earthquake strikes. You're very busy and communication is spotty, but if you can get through a single text message, you can reach everyone on your list. Simply text "I'm Ok" plus a short personal message (like "I'm ok, a little roof damage, but we're fine") to 364287 (spells Emicus, clever huh?), and their system will forward it to everyone on your list. If all you have is a voice number, they'll even call and read it aloud. Isn't that a great idea?

I just registered and listed my mom and my mother-in-law so I know I have a way to reach them. You can list friends, family, co-workers, whoever it might be important to reach after a disaster. Here's a hint -- to enter your names and numbers in the box, you have to click "edit" on the right side of the screen, then it opens up all the fields to type into.

This service will save you time and ease the minds of your loved ones, friends, and colleagues when they're watching the devastation on the Weather Channel or CNN.

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