MSU and WKAR Develop App for Flint Residents During Water Crisis

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Photo credit; WKAR

Michigan State University and WKAR-TV have put the power of information in the hands of Flint residents through a new tool that navigates community resources in the wake of the ongoing water crisis.

The mobile app “Empower Flint” provides a checklist of important actions people can take to protect themselves, their families and pets as they battle elevated lead levels in the water supply. Released March 1, the app was developed by a team of researchers and specialists from MSU, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, and WKAR-TV in collaboration with the people of Flint.

“Our goal was to build something that adapts to the needs identified by Flint residents, and that stands the test of time as community needs evolve,” said Kami Silk, MSU associate dean for research and professor of communication and agbio research. “Our hopes are that the app will fill an information gap and be embraced as coming from a trusted and familiar voice in Flint: MSU.”

The app’s “find” operation enables users to search for the closest water stations, free water filters, lead testing sites, community events, and sources of nutritious food. Users will also find directional maps, news feeds, and volunteer and community activities at their fingertips. Most important, “Empower Flint” pushes out critical alerts about water safety, lead levels, and immediate steps that residents can take for personal and public health.

“We saw a lot of experts and community partners providing a lot of important information,” said WKAR-TV Station Manager Susi Elkins. “Since we’re communicators, we saw it as a chance to put our expertise to use for the greater good and devise a way to make communicating that information as easy as possible.”

Associate Professor of Media and Information Brian Winn led the development of the app starting in mid-January with members of the College of ComArtSci’s GEL Lab.  Silk and Elkins assembled ongoing focus groups of residents to test and provide feedback the app.

The app may be downloaded to both iOS and Android devices here.

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