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Smartphone app will help during power outages

A new smartphone app could change how long it takes customers to get their lights back on during a power outage. (WJAR)

A new smartphone app could change how long it takes customers to get their lights back on during a power outage.

The app, designed just for first responders, allows them to upload a picture to National Grid in the event of an emergency, like a downed power line.

The Warwick Fire Department is one of the first agencies in Rhode Island to sign up for the app.

Assistant Chief James Kenney told NBC 10 it's really easy to use.

"We wanted to make it as easy as ordering a pizza," said Michael McCallan, vice president of emergency planning for National Grid.

Only emergency officials have access to the "FirstResponder" app.

Once emergency officials sign on to the app, they decide what kind of emergency it is.

For instance, does it involve a tree, a wire, pole, electric or gas equipment? Then, they snap a picture, which goes directly to National Grid, and the report is submitted -- all in less than a minute.

The app uses the phone's built-in GPS so the power company knows exactly where the emergency is.

"Now having that eyes on the field and that picture says a lot to us and words that we didn't have before," McCallan said.

In the past, emergency officials would call National Grid and send a supervisor out to assess the situation. The power company said the app, which already has 1,400 users, will allow them to respond with better resources and help them prioritize their calls.

"Before it was just five wire down calls or five tree calls," McCallan said. "But now we can take a picture to that call, as well."

Kenney said firefighters in Warwick will begin using the app next month. He believes it'll make it easier to keep track of outages during severe weather.

"So for example, Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy, the Blizzard Nemo, any of the big storms that knocked out, like, one-third of our residents in this city," Kenney said.

National Grid is offering the app to first responders in Rhode Island and Massachusetts at no cost. For information on how to sign up for the app, send an email to FirstResponderAppSupport@nationalgrid.com

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