New tool developed at ODU encourages residents to evacuate ahead of big storms

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by 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on July 2, 2014 at 5:43 PM

NORFOLK --A new tool developed by researchers at Old Dominion University is designed to graphically demonstrate the threat posed by high winds and rising water during a storm.

It's called HEED, or the Hurricane Evacuation Encouragement Demonstrator, and it provides customized evacuation routes and video animations of what citizens may experience during a storm if they decide not to evacuate.

One of the major risks to populations during major storms is the small number of residents who make the decision not to evacuate despite facing real danger.

Citizens who ignore a mandatory evacuation order not only put themselves at needless risk, it also costs money and risks the lives of first responders who have to try to rescue stranded residents.

The prototype is operational and available here.

Once residents make the prudent decision to actually evacuate, HEED becomes an even more vital tool.

"We've designed the site to be adjustable, so it will continue to be useful even after residents leave their homes," said Senior Project Scientist Sol Sherfey said.

HEED mobile provides real-time information to users on their cellphones, included updated storm tracks, and information about emergency shelters and service stations along their evacuation route.

Sherfey said more can be done with the app in the future. 

"They could add filters like, instead of show me the shelters, show me the shelters that are open. Or show me the gas stations that have diesel," Sherfey said.

HEED was developed with three grants from Virginia Dept. of Emergency Management totaling $240,000.

The HEED app is free, and for Android phones may be downloaded from Google Play at https://play.google.com. The app also may be acquired from the Windows Phone site at https://www.windowsphone.com. VMASC is in the process of getting the app posted to both the Apple and Blackberry sites, and Sherfey expects it will be available for iPhones and Blackberrys soon.

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