The United States has witnessed a surge in natural disasters since the past couple of years. From wildfires in the west coast to hurricanes in the east – they have resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in damage. As of 12th September 2018, Hurricane Florence is projected to hit the eastern coast of the country – primarily in the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. The U.S. government has issued its mandatory warning, and citizens have taken extreme precautions to ensure a safe ride-out of the storm. Majority of them have also downloaded the Zello app to ensure seamless communication during the course of the event.
So how exactly will the app benefit those stuck in the path of the storm? Its common knowledge that any form of natural disaster overloads mobile network connections, as numerous victims try to reach out to their friends and family in case of emergency or simply to ensure their safety. The push-to-talk functionality of the Zello app transforms a smartphone into a walkie-talkie – enabling communication even when mobile networks are jammed. It simulates a traditional two-way radio and offers additional features, i.e. replaying past broadcasts and notifications support.
After creating an account, users can either create or join an existing channel on Zello. Channels can be joined by either searching for them or by looking at the top trending ones in the area. During the course of Hurricane Florence, citizens can join a relevant channel on the app to get updates on the nature of the storm – if it’s either strengthening or moving its course. It can also be used to broadcast emergency messages of injury. Finally, users can create or join a channel consisting of only friends and family, eliminating the need to constantly call them up. The app is free and without any ads, and hosts a simple user-friendly interface. It’s also available on a variety of OS – including Apple, Android, Windows Phones, and Blackberry.
The app received its first publicity on June 2013, when Turkish protesters used it to circumvent government censors. Zello became the most downloaded app in the country the following week. In 2017, after Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey hit the southeastern U.S., rescuers used the app to search for people and animals in need. Leading up to Hurricane Florence, Zello jumped from being the 25th most used social networking app to the 4th – just in the space of a few days.
While many residents of Carolinas have already fled west to avoid the hurricane, many are depending on the Zello app to stay their ground. Breakdown of communication is one of the major reasons why accidents occur during any natural disaster – as victims stay unaware of any impending doom. The app is set to ensure that people stay connected during the storm and share valuable information that might help reduce injuries and loss of lives.
According to the National Weather Service, Florence is currently a Category 4 hurricane, with wind speeds of 130 mph. It’s predicted to be the strongest storm ever to make landfall north of Florida. As millions of people scramble to get out of its path, the ones remaining can rely on Zello for communication. It’s important to note that the app wouldn’t function if cell towers are wiped out, but with limited cell service, can help citizens in the event of an emergency.