Screenshot of available smartphone applications for updates on siren alerts, August 9 2018. .
(photo credit: OREN OPPENHEIM)
When a rocket siren blares in southern Israel, the people who are affected the most are those living in the communities there, who must run for shelter. But people around the world are also alerted to the sirens – via “Red Alert” smartphone apps.
A rocket siren warning in Hebrew is known as a Tzeva Adom , which literally translates to “Color Red” but is commonly translated as “Red Alert,” or “Code Red.”
The smartphone applications send out alerts whenever a rocket siren goes off, although they do not usually send further updates regarding the situation – which means that if it”s a false alarm, the apps will not necessarily reflect that.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Hamas fired around 180 mortars and rockets from Gaza
into border communities, setting off a massive amount of rocket sirens. The applications sent notifications of each siren to their users, allowing people around the world to follow a genuine flare-up between Israel and Hamas in real time.
The two major phone application stores, Android”s Google Play and Apple”s iPhone App Store, have numerous “Red Alert” apps. While almost all of the apps show current updates on the rockets and allow users to choose whether to receive alerts from everywhere or from specific regions, each has different features meant to supplement the main notifications.
There are various applications that feature up-to-date Red Alert notifications and English-language interfaces. One English application tested by The Jerusalem Post , however – which is still available in the application stores – was not up to date; on Android it showed the most recent alert as being from June.
“RedAlert,” developed by Elad Nava and listed in Hebrew on Google Play and the App Store, actually works in multiple languages – including a perfect English – and allows users to tap on any rocket alert to see where the location is on a map. The application also lets the user send an “I’m safe” message to contacts, which includes a link to the app.
This app, like some of the others, offers different notification-sound options, including five “siren” options that sound close to the real deal; a “funny” option where a high-pitched voice squeaks “Incoming!” and laughs after the sound of a cartoonish crash; and “short” alert sound options that include an alarm identical to the alert used during televised Japanese earthquake warnings.
The similarly titled “Red Alert: Israel,” developed by Kobi Snir and available on both iPhone and Android, tells users that “Rockets Attack” (even in the event of a false alarm) before listing the cities where the siren went off. It also lets users com - ment on rocket alerts and pro - vides a chat function, ostensibly to discuss the alerts, although a glance into the chat showed little cohesive conversation.
“Red Alert: Israel” also has a radio function that allows users to listen to updates on rocket sirens and other developments in Israel on various Israeli stations, including Army Radio and civilian-run stations.
One of the notification sound options for the app is an Israeli repeatedly announcing “tzeva adom” – as it might sound if announced over a loudspeaker in an affected area.
“Rocket Alert!” – developed by Gavriel Fleischer and listed in the Google Play store as “Red Alert/ Tzeva Adom B’Zman Emet ” (Red alert in real time), places a pervasive notification in the Android notification center, which mentions whether the situation is “all quiet” or if there are rockets, in addition to sending out push notifications when sirens go off. (This application is not available on the iPhone App Store.) The app works in English or Hebrew – although the English is a slightly rough-around-the-edges translation – and can cull data from various sources, including Israel’s Home Front Command.
Users of the apps, both outside and inside of Israel, have found them to be impactful.
“I had a powerful moment last night at maariv [evening prayers],” Hilly Adler of Toronto told the Post via Facebook message. “I was trying to focus on prayer... but I got a notification every five or 10 seconds [about rockets].”
Daniel Landau, a recent immigrant from New York, said by message that “when I’m outside or even inside Israel, I am in solidarity with all of the residents affected by the color red alerts.”
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