Muskogee Man's iPhone App Could Save Lives During Severe Weather

Wednesday, September 8th 2010, 9:28 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

MUSKOGEE, OKLAHOMA -- A Muskogee computer programmer has come up with an iPhone application he believes may save lives during severe weather.

It's called Open Shelters, and it may come in handy over the next few days.

Mel Bass loves his iPhone, but as a native of tornado alley, he felt something was missing.

"Went out looking for what kind of applications would show you where emergency shelters were, and I could not find anything for the iPhone," Bass said. "I decided that was a spot that needed to be filled."

So he spent the past few months developing Open Shelters. Released a week ago, the app shows users exactly where emergency centers are located anywhere in the U.S.

For example, there are the remnants of Hermine to the south of Oklahoma.

"Of course, right now we've got flooding going on in Texas, so there are very likely to be some shelters there," Bass said.

And the wildfires that have destroyed dozens of homes and scorched thousands of acres in Colorado.

"There's still a shelter open in Boulder at the YMCA at Boulder valley. Current capacity is unknown, current population of 18," he said.

Bass stressed that Open Shelters is designed to be a last resort. During severe weather, he still recommends listening to the meteorologists.

"But if you lose power, lose Internet connection, this is where this application comes into play," he said.

As anyone who lives in Oklahoma knows, that is always a possibility.

The application is free. Bass hopes to upgrade it in the future by allowing users to locate nearby tornado shelters. He said he's had about 300 downloads during the first week.