A Portland Disaster App Preps for the Big One

When the earth shakes, look to your iPhone.

By Bill Lascher March 22, 2013 Published in the April 2013 issue of Portland Monthly

Two years ago this month, a massive quake unleashed a tsunami and nuclear crisis on Japan. Thanks to the Cascadian fault line, Oregon will get a similar shake—some say any day now—destined to devastate Portland’s infrastructure. 

At least there’s an app for that.

“If Portland was hit by some sort of natural disaster or an earthquake, the likelihood of being able to communicate via cell is slim to none,” says Lindsay Bell, the president of Hillsboro’s Darkwater Studios. The firm created Survive!, a free app for iPhone, for a competition last year. A just-released version incorporates input from the city’s Bureau of Emergency Management. Key features for the quake prepper:

TEXT   Users can create prearranged text messages and contact lists. A preset “I need help” alert even sends out GPS coordinates. (SMS puts less strain on networks than voice calls.)

10-4   Users can monitor police, fire, and weather services with the app’s built-in emergency and weather band radio scanners. 

DOT DASH DOT   The app includes an International Morse Code translation chart and allows users to tap out Morse messages with their phone’s “flashlight” mode.

NAVIGATE   Survive! maps rally points set up by local governments, like the network of neighborhood emergency communication nodes launched late last year by the City of Portland. Users can map their own gathering spots, landmarks, or just where the wreckage of the Fremont Bridge has washed up.

Frightened townsfolk will, of course, have to plan their Survive! use strategically. Those iPhone batteries may not last much longer than civilization itself.  

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