Two New Apps Enable Public to Help First Responders - GPS World

Two New Apps Enable Public to Help First Responders

February 12, 2015  - By
Photo credit: Texas A&M.

Photo credit: Texas A&M.

Two new apps developed at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi use social media to help police officers, news stations, and the public navigate the many incidents and minor emergencies that may occur on a daily basis.

Richard Smith, creator of the two emergency response apps, is collaborating with Michelle Maresh-Fuehrer, assistant professor of Communication at A&M-Corpus Christi, to identify how the apps could aid first responders during emergencies.

“With the combination of SituMap and PhotoSorter, the public can be encouraged to submit photos and videos that may be helpful during an investigation,” said Smith, assistant professor of Geographic Information Science and Geospatial Surveying Engineering at the Island University. “For example, during an active shooter event, photos and videos of the suspect or their location can be taken with a cell phone and easily sent to responders. This could drastically improve response time and ultimately save lives.”


Photo credit: Texas A&M

Smith developed the mapping applications to provide a way for first responders to rapidly, and easily, receive and map information so they could have a more comprehensive awareness of emergency situations. Maresh-Fuehrer is working on extending the use of Smith’s social media mapping applications to enhance communication before, during, and after a crisis.

 “A crisis event is typically a time of high stress and increased uncertainty for organizations and responders,” said Maresh-Fuehrer, who studies crisis communication strategies. “The applications developed by Dr. Smith have several features that allow for more informed and efficient crisis response.”

SituMap acts as a tablet-like digital command center that shows officers maps of the crisis area. With the touch of a finger the table-size display can be zoomed, rotated and drawn on. Like a personalized version of Google Maps, officers can search for locations and measure distances. But it goes further than Google Maps. A pin can be created in the application that could represent a person, police car, or groups of people. The pin can be strategically positioned around the area and directions can then be relayed to officers at the emergency location.

“An organization’s crisis team, along with emergency responders, can use SituMap to identify where people should be during a specific crisis,” said Maresh-Fuehrer. “With this application, responders can even view floor plans. This could help to identify safe locations such as fire exits and stairwells.”

PhotoSorter works in tandem with SituMap by allowing emergency responders, crisis planners and community members to share pictures or video of the crisis. Emergency responders can then upload the photos and video into SituMap to help in important decision-making situations.

SituMap and PhotoSorter were designed and developed at the Island University by Smith. The University Police Department is currently using a beta version of SituMap in training sessions.

In today’s digital world, people all over the globe can be connected through social media and, with the touch of a button, information about a major accident can be shared worldwide. With SituMap, important responders, as well as the community, can see real-time information on traffic congestion, roadblocks, and closed roads, which will aid in faster response times. The app also has a weather feature built into it which could be used during severe weather events such as a hurricane.