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Mobile weather monitoring technology can aid first responders

By Glen Denny / Special to HealthcareFacilities Today
October 17, 2017

One of the biggest challenges in weather forecasting has always been alerting people who are away from home of severe weather threats. The radio was for years the primary viable method of doing so, but a radio can only give listeners so much pertinent information, such as county-wide watches and warnings. 

This kind of information can be helpful to some degree for people who find themselves out and about when weather hits, as it can be used as a basic indicator of danger and the need for mobile listeners to find shelter in a safe place. 

However, there are numerous shortcomings to radio-delivered weather reporting. Radio’s main shortcoming, which is responsible for all of the missing links in radio-delivered weather, is the medium of the radio itself. 

Radio is a purely aural medium, for one. Radar, one of the most essential weather data tools, is practically irrelevant to the medium of radio, as radar obviously offers a purely visual delivery of weather data. 

Radio is also a non-specific medium. Via radio, a set amount and set kind of weather information is broadcast to a wide-ranging listening area. The amount and kind of information cannot be customized or altered in any way to fit the specific interests or needs of listeners located within a specific region of the listening area of the station. 

The mobile solution to weather

The solution to the problem of effective on-the-go weather forecasting came with the advent of smart phones and mobile radar apps. Smart phones are now a near ubiquitous technology in the United States (and most of the rest of the world, too), so the majority of people in the present day who find themselves out and on the go during a time when they need weather information can access that information on their smart phone. AccuWeather, the Weather Channel, and other weather data providers all have their own mobile apps which people can download and use to this end. 

However, the current mobile weather application landscape is still not 100% effective. Weather apps like those provided by The Weather Channel and AccuWeather offer extensive data and radar, but, like most weather apps, they still mostly deliver non-specific, commodity data. 

Apps such as these can give the user a 10-day forecast, current radar and projected radar of their surrounding area, and of course, can send the user notifications of National Weather Service (NWS) watches and warnings as they occur. This kind of information is mostly sufficient for general users. 

However, users in areas of frequent inclement weather, or professional users involved in emergency response or planning for schools, hospitals, businesses, and governments will find this kind of limited weather data lacking for their purposes.

A new class of mobile monitoring 

A new generation of advanced weather apps, such as Baron’s Threat Net mobile app, are the kind of product these kinds of users need to do their jobs well and to keep safe. Apps in this new generation are focused on providing hyper-local, one-to-one critical weather intelligence to advanced users and lay-users alike. 

Baron’s Threat Net Mobile app, for example, features detailed data and visual monitoring on precipitation and forecasted road conditions and hazards, (a Baron-exclusive product featuring advanced data on severe weather threats such as damaging winds, hail, and flooding), a monitoring system that displays real-time cloud-to-ground lightning strikes at street level, and storm vectors enabling accurate storm tracking up to an hour in advance. 

These and other similarly advanced weather monitoring products have more value than commodity weather data in that they are in-depth, specific, and customizable. A good example of this is another feature of Baron’s Threat Net Mobile app called Critical Weather Indicators. This Baron exclusive product highlights to users in real-time the most dangerous storm situations near their location, effectively warning users of possible severe weather threats before they happen. 

The alerts from the NWS, while certainly valuable to many people, don’t work in this way. NWS alerts are aimed at the widest possible audience in order to ensure the safety of as many people as possible during inclement weather. 

Apps like Baron’s, however, are aimed at each individual’s safety and efficacy in keeping others in their area safe. For example, Baron’s mobile alerts will notify users who are in the actual path of a storm of its imminent arrival, will warn users of nearby lighting strikes, and could point out the possible flooding of a nearby river based on projected rainfall. 

Because these alerts are based on algorithms and aren’t required to be approved by at the NWS, they arrive well before the storm or other threat has, which is a feature commodity weather apps lack. 

If we revisit the mediums of radio and commodity weather apps discussed earlier, we can see how large an advantage these advanced weather apps have on any other method of delivering weather data to people on the go. Imagine a severe storm is approaching a town. 

A mobile user in this town away from home using a radio to monitor the weather will not have much of an idea where a nearby severe storm is in relation to her exact location, and as a result will be able to do little in terms of creating a specific plan. 

A commodity mobile app user will be able to see where the storm currently is and where it might be in an hour, but she will have to pick herself out on the map (which likely displays a large area) and project the storm’s long-term path herself, planning accordingly based on this information. 

A user who has an advanced app, like Baron Threat Net mobile, will be notified of the storm in advance if it is heading towards and projected to hit her exact location. This user can also learn what kind of specific threats this imminent storm may bring to her exact location, such as high winds, hail, heavy rain, or a possible tornado (determined by Baron’s Critical Weather Indicators). 

Advanced apps are perfect for public safety 

The above description shows how much more pertinent information can be delivered via an advanced mobile app compared to other methods, which is what makes these advanced apps so appropriate for both professionals and laypeople, and also so appropriate for use by organizations such as schools, hospitals, businesses, and governments. Schools, for instance, could benefit largely from an advanced mobile app like Baron’s in many situations. 

If weather hits while students are being transported to an event off campus or even simply being brought home in the afternoon, having each bus equipped with an advanced mobile app could aid in coordination with the schools’ center of operations, and could allow school staff on the busses to make the right decisions to ensure the safety of the students being transported. Hospitals could use such apps in a similar way. 

A hospital operation center could, in times of severe weather, rely on its individual mobile employees, such as individuals driving ambulances or helicopters, to make decisions best for them and their patients while in the field during critical weather situations. For businesses and local governments, the same idea applies. 

The mobile parts of these organizations, if equipped with advanced weather apps like Baron’s, could be more reliably responsible for their own safety during severe weather, taking some of the burden off of their home bases, and most importantly, keeping themselves out of dangerous situations. 

Advanced mobile apps like Baron Threat Net mobile are clearly the most effective medium through which to deliver important weather information in critical situations, because the data delivered via these apps is specific, hyper-local, in depth, and customizable. All of these characteristics added up equate to mobile apps which can be useful to anyone, and can be especially useful to professional users involved in public safety, such as in hospitals, schools, local governments, and businesses. 

Glen Denny is president of Enterprise Solutions at Baron Services, Inc.

 

 

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