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March 1, 2016

New app could benefit Flint residents affected by lead water

People living in Flint affected by the ongoing water situation now have a new tool to navigate the available community resources.

A new mobile device app called “Empower Flint” was developed by a team of researchers at Michigan State University and WKAR, its affiliate PBS station, in collaboration with Flint residents who test piloted the app.

Its goal is to provide residents with a step-by-step checklist of the most important action items they should take to protect themselves, their families and even their pets in dealing with the lead water crisis.

Among the app’s features is a “find” operation that allows the user to search for the closest water stations, free water filters and sources of nutritious food, and then pull up a map for directions.

“Essentially, we would like to put as much Flint-related information as possible at the fingertips of users, with the goal of building in longevity to provide support for the long haul,” said Brian Winn, associate professor in the Department of Media and Information who led the development of the app.

Other features include:

  • Push notifications on timely information such as boil water alerts
  • Water safety tips on dealing with the Flint water crisis.
  • Health tips to keep your family safe and/or deal with lead poisoning issues.
  • Nutrition tips to limit the damage of lead exposure.
  • Pet safety tips to keep pets safe from lead.
  • Community connections for people interested in volunteering and those needing help.
  • A news feed with the latest Flint news.

“We realize that not everyone will have access to a smart phone and be able to use the app,” said Susi Elkins, WKAR station manager and member of the team. “But this is one more tool for those who do or for those that are on the ground helping residents in Flint.”

The app is available for both Android and Apple iOS smart phones and tablets and can be found on

“Healthy food and other important resources are difficult to find in many of our neighborhoods. By pushing updates right to an individual’s smartphone, we hope to make these resources more visible and increase utilization,” said Rick Sadler, assistant professor in the Division of Public Health at MSU’s recently expanded medical school in Flint.

WKAR and the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences collaborated with a number of partners, including Central Michigan 2-1-1, MSU Extension, the colleges of Human Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, and the residents of Flint.

By: Layne Cameron