Android app guides you to nearest Etowah County community storm shelter

Smart phone apps can warn you about severe weather, and some will tell you where to go for shelter.

The Gadsden/Etowah County EMA released a new app called "Shelter Etowah".{} It is similar to the Shelter Etowah website, which has an interactive map of the 12 community storm{}shelters in the county.

Operations specialist Michael Amberson said it is better to put that information in the palm of your hand.

"Having an app provides an easier way for them to be able to bring up this information and it makes it a lot more mobile as well," Amberson said.

"As opposed to looking it up on a computer and writing down directions."

The app uses a smart phone's GPS coordinates to find the nearest{}shelter.{} With a couple taps, it provides driving directions, and displays a picture of the building so users can verify they are in the correct place.

A graduate student at Jacksonville State University built the app as part of his graduate project.{} It is free to download from the Google Play store on the Android operating system, and Amberson said the developer is working on a version for the iPhone which should be available by March.

"If this project helps to save one life, or helps someone stay safe, it's an accomplishment for our agency and it's good for our citizens as well," he said.

Amberson said many of the calls to EMA during severe weather are from people looking for a place to go.{} He hopes people will now use their phones to find those shelters, instead of flooding phone lines.

Several Etowah County EMA employees also have the James Spann 24/7 app on their smart phones, which you can download here.