As part of the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network, the Global Disaster Preparedness Center (GDPC) is a resource center that promotes innovation in disaster preparedness and supports learning and knowledge sharing amongst disaster preparedness practitioners worldwide. One key aspect of the GDPC’s work is promoting the creative use of technology and innovative approaches in disaster preparedness programs. Through the Universal App Program, the GDPC and the Global First Aid Reference Center have created a platform to facilitate the adaptation and localization of mobile applications (apps) with first aid and hazard information for use in countries across the globe, putting preparedness information directly into people’s hands.
The following story comes from talks with Constantinos Kalfountzos, Rescuer – Training Instructor of the Hellenic Red Cross (HRC) and Focal Point for app development. Based on the island of Crete, Constantinos took the lead on developing the Everyday First Aid app for the HRC. Throughout the development phase and beyond, Constantinos has demonstrated himself to be intensely passionate, driven and dedicated to the success of the app and the people using it. He balanced the development of the app against the range of other activities the HRC was involved in and gathered a team of dedicated instructors and volunteers together. That team [pictured above] was him, Emmanuel Proimos, Ioannis Makris, Christos Kokkinis and Eirini Vemi who handled the translating, and Yorgos Sotiriadis who worked on video creation.
April 2015 saw the launch of the First Aid app in Greece, a country of around 11 million people where over 35.5 % of the population currently uses a smartphone device for their internet connection and over 70% of the population have their own internet connection.
Firstly, why do you think developing an app like this important to a Red Cross/Red Crescent national society?
“It’s very important because it provides free valuable knowledge to the public about what to do before, during and after any emergency. Especially in countries like Greece, the earthquakes, the extreme weather conditions, the big number of fatal road accidents, plus the economic crisis of the last year and the poor National Healthcare System, have created the need for training the general public in basic first aid skills. The app can really supplement our work by being our official handbook for all the people that take our first aid courses. Another important role of the app is promoting the importance of blood donations and volunteering. With the app we feel closer to the people!”
How has the public responded to the app, and what targets do you have for future downloads?
“The response…it was amazing! In only 40 days we managed to gain over 4,000 downloads of the app. The comments of the users in the app stores are great! We have more than 230 5-star ratings, with incredible comments! They seem very enthusiastic! We believe that our app can reach the goal of 15,000 users before the end of 2015, with a goal of a minimum 50,000 users for the next 2 or 3 years.”
How did you hear about the Everyday First Aid app, and the Universal App Program?
“We really didn’t know about the Universal App Program and GDPC before, but from about 2012 a lot of our volunteers and staff had been using the First Aid apps by the British and American Red Crosses. We really wanted to have one in Greek for Greek people so we contacted the British Red Cross, and they put us in touch with the GDPC in September 2013.”
Finally, what was challenging about developing the app and what has been most rewarding?
“I think that the most challenging part of the development of the app was the translation to Greek! The problem was the complexity of the Greek language. We have more than 10 Greek words for every term in English.” As for rewards; “with the launch of the app we [the HRC] showed that we can provide and innovate even in difficult times. The collaboration with the GDPC was a great experience and we are all very proud! The app came as valuable gift for our volunteers and all the people who support us! I think that this marks the beginning of a new era for the Hellenic Red Cross!”
The First Aid app of the Hellenic Red Cross continues to see steady download rates, which stand at over 5,500 (June 24th 2015).
The demonstrated level of passion and commitment shown by the Hellenic Red Cross to the delivery of a great app that has the power to save thousands of lives is an example of a model for new Red Cross/Red Crescent national societies to the program.