App of the Week: Houston, Texas Emergency Radio

Categories: Tech

App: Houston, Texas Emergency Radio
Platform: iPhone, iPad
Web site: Facebook Page
Cost: Free

Monday night, after Kentucky had dispatched Kansas in the NCAA national championship game, there was a surge of posts on Twitter about the riots taking place in Lexington, mainly because the firefighters' union there began posting information and photos about them. As the violence increased, Twitter users linked to emergency scanners in Lexington so people from all over the world could listen to the growing chaos.

Just a week before the mayhem, I discovered a fascinating app that would help Houstonians if our sports fans ever rioted. Of course, we know that would never happen because we don't do that sort of stupid in Houston. Also, we likely don't have a team that will be winning a title anytime soon. Ahem.

The app is called Houston, Texas Emergency Radio (to the point), and despite the to-the-point name, it goes beyond that to deliver information about police, fire and EMS in the Houston area and surrounding counties.

I've known people who have owned police scanners because they enjoy listening to the chatter and keeping up on what is going on around them. This app would probably send them into fits of joy.

The app opens to a Google map with icons displaying various police, fire and EMS events throughout the city. Tap any of the icons and a small text box appears with a short category description -- major accident/non-fatal, for example. Tap the box and a description of the event as provided by police appears. It's relatively limited information, but still fascinating. There is also a list mode for viewing a full list of every current event in the area.

I can only assume this data is pulled from the database of information made publicly available by the city and surrounding counties, but pulling it together in this way is convenient, to say the least.

Then there is the radio component. Tap the radio icon and a list of radio scanners appears along with whether they are online or not and how many listeners are currently tuned in. It's an interesting list of around 20 dispatches that includes Houston, Harris County and surrounding municipalities. The links lead to a small radio window that will stream the dispatch.

The Verdict
The app's performance was solid on both a wi-fi and a 3G network connection and I had zero problems checking the various streams and incident reports. The design is simple and well organized. Overall, this is one killer little app that I highly recommend. Even if you aren't a crime junkie, this could be a valuable asset in an emergency and, at the very least, will help you avoid traffic accidents that just happened.

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