Smartphones and websites help keep Israelis safe in wartime

Want to know if your area is being targeted by Hamas rockets, and where to go, if so? There are apps for that

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers and citizen takes cover as a siren sounds warning of incoming rockets in Ashdod  (Photo credit: Dima Vazinovich/Flash90)
Illustrative: Israeli soldiers and citizen takes cover as a siren sounds warning of incoming rockets in Ashdod (Photo credit: Dima Vazinovich/Flash90)

As citizens of one of the most connected countries in the world, Israelis have been relying on their smartphones since the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense, with new apps and sites popping up to help keep them safe and informed.

Though the cellphone networks have reported more congestion last week than ever before, not everyone in Tel Aviv was on the ball when when the first siren warning went off in the city. According to residents in some parts of the city, the siren sound was very faint and people indoors where music was playing didn’t hear it.

One tool for tracking attack locations is the Red Alert warning app (iPhone, Hebrew only), which lists where the latest siren alerts are taking place. The app alerts users when when a missile is on the way, enabling them to immediately run for cover. Users can limit the alerts to specific areas (such as their own communities), and they can also send comments and messages of encouragement to those who are under attack.

When a missile is launched by Gaza terrorists, Israel’s defense alert system determines where it is aimed and issues an alert for that specific area. The Home Front Defense Ministry’s maps shows how long residents of each area have to get to a safe place before the missile hits the area — anywhere between 15 seconds and three minutes.

Where to go? According to instructions from the Home Front Command, Israelis need to be aware of protected areas — bomb shelters, underground parking lots, and the like – where they work, live, and travel. Secure Spaces (iPhone and Android),  developed by the Ashdod Municipality, lists protected spaces in specific areas. The app uses your device’s GPS chip to determine your location, and using Google Maps, it displays the location of the closest protected space, as determined by the Home Front Command, including address and distance from where you are. Tel Aviv residents can also access a Google Maps page which lists the protected spaces in their city.

All the protected spaces in the app comply with the instructions provided by the Home Front Command, which has a web page (Hebrew) describing where and how to take cover. For example, residents of the third and fourth floors of a four-story building are instructed to take shelter in the second-floor hallway if no other location is available.

The Home Front Command has been stressing that following instructions is Israelis’ best bet for surviving an attack. The new web pages and smartphone apps can help keep losses minimal.

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