As Florence nears landfall on the East Coast, claims are popping up online about apps that can help in emergency situations.

Some of them provide access to resources, updates and emergency responders. Others claim to be able to connect people via messaging even when there's no cell service.

THE QUESTION

Can Zello connect users and allow them to send messages and information even when cell service is down?

THE ANSWER

No, while Zello can certainly have benefits to users during emergency situations by allowing communities to talk together, it relies on cell service or Wi-Fi to operate.

WHAT WE FOUND

Zello themselves remind their users that the app's functionality relies on cell service and Wi-Fi to function.

THERE ARE APPS THAT WORK WITHOUT SERVICE

There are apps like Firechat that use Mesh Networking to connect users without cell service.

Mesh Networking basically uses a phone's receiving and transmitting capabilities to create a network of connected users when cell providers go down.

It allows users who have the same app to communicate within a short range. If enough people have the app nearby, the messages can travel further distances as well.

EVEN APPS THAT NEED SERVICE ARE IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW

VERIFY spoke to Northeastern University Professor Daniel Aldrich about the benefits of community conversations in emergency situations.

Aldrich runs the Security and Resilience Program at Northeastern and works with emergency response crews across the country.

He said their research shows that apps like Facebook, Twitter, Nextdoor and any others that let local communities interact can be beneficial.

"In the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina, and afterwards Hurricane Sandy...disaster research shows us, individuals who are connected to their neighbors, who know their people living nearby and help out, those people do better themselves and the whole community does better."

According to Aldrich, social media has informs people about the storm and influences their decisions.

"The reality is we're always getting cues, signals, and request from friends, family members and friends of friends," he said. "Research showed that a lot of the choices that we make about staying or leaving really vulnerable areas, often are a function of the ties that we have online."

Aldrich said evacuees were more likely to make the decision to flee the storm if they'd seen posts on their personal social media pages rather than simply seeing posts from news outlets.

He also said that the same apps can have immense power after the storm passed to help people in recovery.

"All of our research shows that living in a community that is connected and interactive is a great way of doing a better job of surviving and getting through," he said.

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