”Heads up Huntington” app alerts users of emergency situations

A locally designed emergency notification app brought in just over 2,000 downloads during the weekend of winter storm Jonas.

The City of Huntington released an app two years ago that informs Cabell and Wayne county residents of unified alerts from school closings to severe incident alerts.

Heads Up Huntington, an integrative notification app, was designed to send emergency notifications to the public after the summer storm of 2012, which left thousands of people in the region without power.

Rodney Pell, senior account executive at SynTech Creative and retired Huntington Police officer, partnered with a local civilian, which led the pair to become the masterminds behind the development of the app after living through the storm of 2012 without any means of communication between the public and city officials.

Pell referred to the development of the app as a “science experience” and said they were unsure of what the app would become.

Heads Up Huntington was released in the fall of 2013.

Spending no money, Heads Up Huntington became a popular emergency user-friendly app in the first few weeks of its release without marketing or advertising.

“Over the first two weeks we had over 40,000 downloads with out spending a dollar,” Pell said.

The app was created so Huntington officials could disseminate information to the citizens of both neighboring counties.

Alerts are generated by administrators in the Cabell-Wayne Homeland Security committee, which houses 115 agencies with over 200 members.

Heads Up Huntington has eight different categories the Cabell-Wayne Homeland Security committee can post to including police, fire, traffic, school, utilities, health, weather and an other option, which serves a purpose for miscellaneous alerts.

Bryan Chambers, City of Huntington communications director, said the app has many features but could be personalized for the user.

Having many categories and features, users could use the push notification option that could push certain notification alerts to the user’s phone “like a text message.”

“The beauty of the app is that the user can customize it however they want,” Chambers said. “I can pick and choose which notifications go to my phone.”

The app also houses features that allow citizens to see maps during street closings ahead of time and make arrangements to detour around the closing.

During snow storm Jonas, Chambers sent out notifications about wrecks, as well as how to reach electric companies in the event of power outages.

Chambers said he uses this app to help better serve the citizens of Huntington in his position to communicate effectively.

“This is just another tool for me to disseminate critical information to the public,” Chambers said. “We can reach a large number of people in just a few seconds.”

Now with the app cresting just over 55,000 downloads, developers are continuing to work on the upkeep of the app to make sure that it is easy to use not only for the user but for the administrator as well.

“Wherever there is an emergency, wherever I am if I have a phone, I have access to it,” Chambers said.

Chambers said when weather related emergencies are on the radar, he will promote the app via social media because he knows that it will be used to share information.

Most of the advertising for the app comes from personal testimonies by users via social media.

Chambers said it has become a community based effort to share the information about the app.

“It can serve as a critical means of communication,” Chambers said. “It’s a great tool for the user.”

SynTech Creative has been in the process of developing an app related to non-emergency notifications about what is going on in Huntington.

Pell said they have also been in discussions with Marshall University officials to develop an app for students.

Darius Booker can be contacted at  [email protected]