Tulsa Woman Creates App To 'Find You' During Severe Weather

Friday, April 4th 2014, 12:21 am
By: Tess Maune

Technology is helping map-out potential storm victims before storms even hit. A Tulsa woman and her cousin created the Find Me Tornado Safety app.

The app is simple to operate and it's developed to work off cell servers outside storm ravaged areas. But, it's main purpose is to reach your loved ones when you have no other way to communicate.

"What happens in a disaster is everybody is calling and texting you, they're wearing down the battery of your phone and this gives you the power of the communication," app co-developer, Kim Fuller said.

Now that spring is in full bloom, that means the skies are alive in Oklahoma.

"It's scary to think about," said Marla Mulanax, a tornado survivor, who will be thinking about storm season more than ever this year.

It's heavy on her mind because it's been less than a year since her family survived the largest tornado ever recorded in Oklahoma, when it swept through the outskirts of El Reno last May.

"I didn't really pay attention to the warnings and it was pretty last minute for all of us to get down and get in the shelter," Mulanax said.

She, her husband and their three young children rode out the storm in a cellar. The twister ripped their rural home to shreds before leaving the family trapped underground for two and half hours, with no cell service.

"I didn't have butterflies, I was really calm, collect and that was just God putting a shield on me saying, ‘Today is the day and you're gonna have to keep it together,'" Mulanax said.

Fortunately for the Mulanax's, they were able to open the cellar door just wide enough to get the word out they were safe.

"I text my in-laws and I threw the phone out of my cellar" said Mulanax.

The message went through and her in-laws were already at the fire department looking to send them help.

Rescuers had to bring in a track hoe to clear the debris that was piled on top of the door. But not all situations turn out that way.

"You could text, unless you're incapacitated, and if you are under rubble and you are knocked out, you don't have the ability to text," said Fuller.

In a storm, cell towers often go down, or get so bogged down with calls that you can't get through. That's were Fuller comes in, a former Crisis Management consultant for FEMA with nearly 20 years of experience managing disasters.

"When you see those mudslides in Washington, 200 people were unaccounted for, well it wasn't because they were in the mud, it was because people just couldn't reach them," Fuller said.

So, Fuller and her cousin, Tammy, came up with the idea for the Find Me Tornado Safety App, to give peace of mind during storm season.

"I finally saw how technology could work for something so practical," said Fuller.

When the storm sirens blow and you head for shelter, you activate the app. It sends out an email, text and phone alert to your contacts, letting them know you've taken cover, then locks that location to a map with GPS.

"What's really key about this is when you activate it, it holds your message for 15 minutes and so if something happens to you or something goes down, it's in a server outside of this area," Fuller said. "If you do not deactivate it because you obviously have something wrong with you, it'll send a message that you're in trouble and you need help."

Once the app is on your phone, you can add any contact that you'd like; they don't necessarily need the app.

Fuller said you want to make sure there's someone on that list who lives in another area, who wouldn't with you or part of the storm.

The app was created with a map, accessible to anyone, that would allow emergency responders to see locations of anyone who activated the app and may still be trapped. Fuller said that aspect of the program would greatly benefit emergency responders.

"They can see our data for free by just picking it up on the web page to show that somebody has activated their app and where they are and it will show if they're a safe room, or if they're in the bathroom or in a closet," Fuller said.

It's software that may have come a little too late for Mulanax and her family, but an app they plan on looking into for this storm season.

"Absolutely, it's a great idea," said Mulanax.

It does cost a one-time fee of $2.99, you can learn more here.