With the severe weather season here, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) just launched a new feature to its free app to enable users to receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations across the nation.

“Emergency responders and disaster survivors are increasingly turning to mobile devices to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “This new feature empowers individuals to assist and support family and friends before, during and after a severe weather event.”

A recent survey by Pew Research shows that 40 percent of Americans have used their smartphone to look up government services or information. Additionally, a majority of smartphone owners use their devices to keep up-to-date with breaking news and to be informed about what is happening in their community.

The new weather alert feature adds to the apps existing features. In addition to this upgrade, the app also provides a customizable checklist of emergency supplies; maps of open shelters and Disaster Recovery Centers; tips on how to survive natural and man-made disasters; and the capability to provide Spanish-language content for smartphones that are set to Spanish for the default language. The FEMA app also offers a “Disaster Reporter” feature, where users can upload and share photos of disaster damage.

The latest version of the FEMA app is available for free in the App Store for Apple devices and Google Play for Android devices. Users who already have the app downloaded on their device should download the latest update for the weather alerts feature to take effect.

The new weather alerts feature in the FEMA app does not replace Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) function available on many new smartphones. WEAs have a special tone and vibration and are sent for emergencies such as extreme weather, AMBER alerts, or Presidential Alerts.

Watch this video about the new FEMA app on how to help your family weather a storm.

More From Eagle 106.3