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Improved hurricane help coming June 1 from PB County’s updated smartphone app

Posted: 5:54 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, 2013
By Jennifer Sorentrue - Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

On May 14, 2013 Palm Beach County emergency managers unveiled an updated smartphone application designed to help residents and businesses get information before a hurricane hits and to quickly report damage after the storm passes.

The free app — called the Disaster Awareness and Recovery Tool, or D.A.R.T. — allows residents to use their smartphone’s GPS system to determine whether they need to evacuate. If they do, it will give them directions to the closest hurricane shelter.

After the storm has passed, the app allows residents and business owners to report damage to their homes or businesses and upload pictures of the storm’s aftermath.

The application can also help residents find an open gas station or grocery store.

Palm Beach County Emergency Management Director Bill Johnson said that 58 percent of residents have smartphones. About 3,000 county residents downloaded a version of the application that was released last year.

The updated version is expected to be released by June 1 — the official start of hurricane season. It will be available on both iPhones and Android phones, emergency managers said.

The updated application provides a way for residents to let emergency managers know immediately about damage in their communities, but it cannot be used ask the county for help, Johnson said.

“We don’t want to have the app be a tool for requesting assistance,” Johnson said Tuesday. “If you need assistance we want you to call 911 or contact our emergency operations center.”

Johnson said the app will not replace the system the county uses to survey hurricane damage. After a storm passes, county assessment teams use a grid-system to identify the hardest hit areas.

Emergency managers unveiled the new smartphone application during their annual hurricane briefing with county commissioners.

Several commissioners said Tuesday they were concerned that residents would not be able to use the application if a storm knocks out power and cell phone towers in their communities.

“I think we are going to have to give them alternatives,” Commissioner Priscilla Taylor said. “Electricity goes out. These phones are on battery. You can’t charge them.”

Assistant County Administrator Vince Bonvento, who oversees the county’s public safety department, said the application is “just another tool.”

BDART and IDART

Business owners and home owners are encouraged to use these tools. For more information and instructions on their use go to:  There are two main damage reporting tools within PBCDART:

 

BDART (Business Damage Reporting Tool) for business applications

IDART (Individual Damage Reporting Tool) for residential applications