On the islands of Hawaii, public officials face a unique problem in maintaining the tsunami sirens. These sirens are often vandalized and have their batteries removed, rendering them ineffective in case of an impending tsunami.
However, a re-purposed app from the non-profit organization Code for America provided an opportunity to utilize technology to solve a simple, but crucial, problem.
Code For America is a non-profit organization that offers year-long fellowships to talented programmers and visionaries to provide services to overhaul the outdated and overburdened local governments.
The original app named Adopt-a-Hydrant was created in January of 2011 during a massive snowstorm in Boston. The Code for America fellow Erik Michaels-Ober noticed the fire hydrants were engulfed in snow, and therefore difficult for emergency services to access.
Once users downloaded Adopt-a-Hydrant, they were able to "adopt" a nearby fire hydrant and pledge responsibility for making it accessible to firefighters during snowstorms. By integrating game dynamics, such as being able to name your hydrant and the ability for users to "steal" ownership if it is not done in a timely manner, the app went viral.
A tsunami siren in Maui, Hawaii. Photo by: Flickr user MïK Watson
Forest Frizzell, the deputy IT director for the city and county of Honolulu, took note and approached Code For America to use the framework in Hawaii. Hawaii's fire hydrants are not in danger of being buried by snow, but their tsunami sirens are often disabled by thieves stealing the batteries.
Without the batteries, the sirens would be rendered useless and citizens left vulnerable to incoming tsunamis without warning. Frizzell told NPR the resulting app, Adopt-A-Siren, was an enormous success with an adoption rate of 75 percent.
Jennifer Pahlka, the Code for America founder, says these innovations are "showing what's possible with technology today." In stark contrast to traditional government work, the coding for the original app was created in a single weekend and was later seamlessly applied to tsunami sirens.
Code For America hopes to bring the power of the people to the 21st century by streamlining and advancing important government projects. By adapting new technologies, the future of these initiatives are limitless.
As a large storm rolls out of the Plains and Midwest, a swath of snow, ice and travel disruptions will extend into the Northeast for the start of March.
Yet another winter storm will take aim at the Northeast and Midwest next week with widespread ice and flooding concerns.
The weekend is setting up to be a slippery and messy one across a large part of the Plains and Midwest as a new winter storm rolls northeastward.
Residents in Spokane, Washington, recently caught sight of the unique phenomenon known as "hole punch" clouds that cause a gaping hole in the otherwise cloudy sky.
The week kicked off with a heavy snow expanding across areas of the Four Corners states before striking the South with snow and ice, causing treacherous travel from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Memphis, Tennessee.
Snowshoers across the country will descend upon Eau Claire, Wisconsin, from Feb. 27 to March 1 to compete in the 2015 U.S. National Snowshoe Championships.
Impressive 48-hour snowfall totals in the Sierra: Chilkoot Meadow - 55" Poison Ridge - 44" Kaiser Point - 43" Wishon Dam - 39" Huntington Lake - 36" Lodgepole - 34"
Three tornadoes combined into one south of Colony, KS. Other tornadoes caused damage near Blue Mound, KS and Kingsville, MO and Blairstown, MO. Yates Center, KS had a thunderstorm wind gust of 70 mph, and baseball-sized hail pounded an area north of Amsterdam, MO.
Charleston, SC (1792)
Heavy snow caused Ashley River Bridge to collapse.