Google Creates Hurricane Irma Digital Survival Kit

Google has pulled together about 20 mobile apps to help Floridians make it through the next 72 hours, as they wait for Hurricane Irma to reach land.

The collection of apps for users running the Android operating system on their smartphone ranges from Hurricane Tracker from The Weather Channel to GasBuddy, which helps consumers find open and operating gasoline stations, to Zello PTT Walkie Talkie, which relies on cell phone data plans or WiFi and is designed to operate in places where signals are weak.

The list called "storm preparedness" for Hurricane Irma also consists of the Maps app Waze, Family Locator, American Red Cross, CNN Breaking News, Expedia Hotels, Facebook, FEMA, and many more.

Google choose the apps because during a natural disaster, people typically search for this type of information with search engines. The company verified that with trending topics in Google Play, and simply took the apps focused on topics they deemed important. Google built the apps store page based on data people might search for in an emergency, even in Google Play.



As Hurricane Harvey came ashore over Southeast Texas last week, Zello the walkie-talkie app became one of the top apps online. In fact, Bill Moore, CEO at the Austin-based company, toldThe Washington Post that the app saw an increase in use of about "20-fold."

Whether or not Google will repurpose the apps page on Play to support other emergencies remains uncertain, but "we definitely want to hear feedback from users first on what tools they find most helpful," per a Google spokesperson. 

Earlier this week, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced during a CBS News briefing that ran on Twitter, the state coordinated with Google's emergency response team to close roads in Google Maps in real-time in the event that hurricane Irma forces the closure of any roads in the aftermath of the storm.

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