HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — A unique smartphone app was launched geared at keeping Cabell and Wayne county residents aware of local emergencies, from small traffic problems or school closings to nation-threatening crises.
The Heads Up Huntington app was created through a joint effort involving the Cabell Wayne Homeland Security Committee, which is comprised of local law enforcement agencies and emergency responders, and Mountain State Computer & Networking Solutions in Huntington.
"'Wouldn't it be neat if' is how all of this started," said Huntington Police Department administrative officer Rodney Pell, who gave a codemonstration of the app last Tuesday at the Tri-State Fire Academy. "Now we have a uniform notification system for disasters and emergencies."
The app is available and free to the public through Google Play or Apple's app store.
Law enforcement or emergency response officials can send a notice to users on an importance scale of one through five, one being a relatively minor incident and five being a major catastrophe. Users can choose which type of notifications to receive.
Whatever type of information the user requests, a "push" notification — typically a vibration of the phone or text sound — will occur when something affecting the user occurs. Push notifications are automatic for anything on a level four or five scale.
Local officials said it is the only app of its kind in the country right now.
Already the collaborators who created the app are looking to expand its borders, so someone driving through Cabell or Wayne county can pick up information on traffic conditions or emergency situations once they cross into Putnam County or Kanawha County, and so on.
The program took about a year to develop, and will continue to evolve. A social media function that will allow users to share a notification on Facebook or Twitter is already in the works.
"It's taken some time," Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said. "But it shows when we set our minds to do something, we can accomplish things no one else in the country has accomplished."
Pell and co-presenter Scott Lemley, Huntington Police's crime statistics expert, were both honored with plaques for the work they did on the project, as was Andrew Hart, the lead designer on the project for Mountain State Computer & Networking.
"This guy talks, and I don't even understand him; he is crazy smart," said Huntington Police Chief Skip Holbrook of the bashful Hart.
Holbrook said the new app will be extremely helpful for law enforcement and the general public.
"This is an example of how we need to get out of some of our comfort areas and look at how we do things in making law enforcement better," he said.
Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, http://www.herald-dispatch.com