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NDSU Ag Communication, Myriad Devices to receive White House Champions of Change honor

Posted on 9/23/2013

NDSU Agriculture Communication and Myriad Devices of Fargo will be honored Sept. 24 as a White House Champion of Change for Community Preparedness and Resilience for creating two disaster education mobile phone apps.

The Winter Survival Kit and Disaster Recovery Log apps won the Innovative Use of Technology class in the Federal Emergency Management Agency Individual and Community Preparedness Awards program. FEMA then forwarded the nomination to the White House for consideration, where the work was selected for the additional honor.

The Champions of Change program was created as part of President Barack Obama's Winning the Future initiative, according to www.whitehouse.gov/champions. The program celebrates Americans who are preparing communities for disasters and helping them respond and recover, bringing together members of the community - private businesses, local government, community and faith-based organizations, and citizens - to make a difference.

Every week, these Champions of Change, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs and community leaders, are invited to the White House to share their ideas. The Champions of Change program is an initiative of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Lead partners on the Winter Survival Kit and Disaster Recovery Log apps were Bob Bertsch, NDSU Ag Communication Web technology specialist; Jake Joraanstad, Myriad Devices CEO; and Becky Koch, Ag Communication director. Koch will represent the team at the Sept. 24 program.

Bertsch said, "In 2011, when smartphones were first becoming popular and North Dakota was dealing with another flood, the NDSU Ag Communication staff brainstormed ways to use smartphones to educate people and support disaster preparedness and recovery as part of NDSU Extension Service educational efforts.

"That same day, an article in the local newspaper featured a startup company that had developed a phone app to inform local people about river levels and flood news," he added. "Myriad Devices, at the time, was a small startup in the NDSU Research and Technology Park incubator, formed when undergraduate students had the idea that mobile was the future."

Myriad and NDSU Ag Communication immediately connected and worked together on the two disaster education phone apps.

Joraanstad said, "The Winter Survival Kit app will help you find your current location, call 911, notify friends and family, calculate how long you can run your vehicle's engine to keep warm and learn how to stay safe from carbon monoxide poisoning if you are stranded. The Winter Survival Kit app also stores important phone and policy numbers for insurance and roadside assistance.

"The app also will alert you every 30 minutes to remind you to turn off the engine periodically and check your exhaust pipe for snow buildup," he said. "These alerts are critical in helping avoid deadly carbon monoxide poisoning."

The Winter Survival Kit app also provides NDSU Extension Service information on how to put together a physical winter survival kit and prepare your vehicle for winter driving, and how to stay safe when stranded in a winter storm.

The Winter Survival Kit was highlighted on the Weather Channel, Huffington Post, Fox News, Washington Post and many other media outlets. At one time, it was No. 2 for educational apps on the Apple App Store.

"The Disaster Recovery Log app helps you record and recover from damage caused by flooding or other disasters," Bertsch said. "The Disaster Recovery Log uses the smartphone's camera to capture photos to illustrate the flood damage. You can key in descriptions of damaged items or use the smartphone's voice recorder to record a description of the damage. These details and photos can be exported for possible insurance and/or government reimbursement."

The Disaster Recovery Log also provides NDSU Extension Service information on how to clean or deal with flood-damaged appliances and electronics; carpets and floors; clothing and fabrics; food; furniture; gardens and landscapes; home structures; household items; mold; papers, books and photos; and water.

Although the Disaster Recovery Log was developed with the recovery phase in mind, the app can and should be used for preparedness by capturing home inventories.

The two apps have more than 70,000 downloads. They are free - Winter Survival Kit for Android and iOS, and Disaster Recovery Log for Androids - and were funded with U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture Smith-Lever Special Needs grants.

Koch said the phone apps fit with the NDSU Extension Service's goal of providing research-based education to help people improve their lives and communities.

"Extension programs focus on agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, 4-H youth development and community vitality," she said. "Disaster preparedness and recovery work is included in all of those subject matter areas."

NDSU Ag Communication and Myriad Devices continue to promote these two disaster apps and work together. The next project: a business preparedness iPad app for small businesses.

NDSU is recognized as one of the nation's top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.


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