A free walkie-talkie app has shot to the top of the App Store as the Caribbean and the southeastern US prepare for Hurricane Irma.
The app, called Zello, lets you use your phone as a walkie-talkie or two-way radio as long as you have a network or WiFi connection. Users can join channels and instantly send voice messages or photos. Zello is free to use and doesn’t have ads, but there is a paid version for companies called ZelloWork, which is how the company makes money.
Zello launched in 2011, and rescue workers have used it in the past – a volunteer rescue group called the Cajun Navy that formed after Hurricane Katrina frequently uses Zello, according to USA Today. And since Hurricane Harvey hit last week, new channels have been popping up on the app for groups like Texas Search and Rescue and Houston-area midwives, USA Today reports.
Downloads of the app spiked during Harvey, and now, as Irma descends on Caribbean islands, Zello has reached the top of the App Store’s free-apps chart.
According to Sensor Tower, an app intelligence firm, Zello has seen a massive increase in downloads in the past day, as Irma has become stronger than Hurricane Katrina was at its peak. Here’s a look at how the app’s hourly downloads since August 28:
- Sensor Tower
On Tuesday night, the storm began hitting the Leeward Islands, the chain of islands separating the Caribbean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean. The National Hurricane Center predicts Irma could hit Florida as early as this weekend.