Emergency responders in Moore will soon have a new tool when it comes to locating tornado survivors in underground shelters. GPS technology will allow rescuers to pinpoint shelter locations through a cell phone application. The app is similar to the maps function on iPhones but with more sophistication.
"We can drop the pin directly on top of the shelter, and we can go right to that pin later," Moore Fire Dept. Lt. Shonn Neidel said.
Neidel knows his phone could be the key in streamlining disaster response by using precise location in the aftermath of a tornado. On May 20, 2013, rescuers only had a list of house numbers. Neidel was at Plaza Towers the day of the deadly tornado. The next day, he was locating storm shelters in a nearby neighborhood.
"When it's leveled, all your landmarks are gone," said Neidel.
After the search, Neidel started brainstorming. With programming help from his brother-in-law, the duo developed the app. It was designed to work off a network to function even when cell towers are down, according to Neidel. The information contained in the app will only be shared with crews traveling from home to home, working to free those underground.
"We will find you," said Neidel. "As long as [the shelter is] registered with us, we'll get to you."
The app will also allow crews to instantly notify a command center which shelters have been checked and which have not. Moore is currently working on a website where residents can register their shelters for this purpose. Currently, the app is only available to the City of Moore, but Neidel hopes it will eventually be able to benefit communities across the nation.