Thursday, March 17, 2011

Google Crisis Support

"I used to sleep nude - until the earthquake."
Alyssa Milano (American Actress)
Back in 2008 (Hide and Seek) I blogged about ways to find missing persons and/or let others know that you are alive after a disaster. For example there is a people finding service run by the Red Cross at https://disastersafe.redcross.org/

Today I learned that Google also supports a people finding service just for major disasters like
Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake  http://christchurch-2011.person-finder.appspot.com/, and
Japan's earthquake and tsunami http://japan.person-finder.appspot.com/?lang=en

Google has also a great resource site for the Japanese quake at Google Crisis Response

(The resource page for Christchurch is http://www.google.com/crisisresponse/christchurch_earthquake.html)

The creator of the website wrote this,
As someone who experienced the Kobe earthquake 16 years ago when I was at university, I cannot forget the immediate desire for information. There was no way to find out where people's family and friends were, if transportation would be available to get us home, and most importantly, whether we would be able to find shelter.

This experience helped me remember that during a crisis, information about shelters can become increasingly muddled. Together with our Google Crisis Response team, we decided to organize existing public information from local governments about the concerned areas. Because of the very high volume of web traffic yesterday, this proved difficult to access. Collaborating with the Google Maps engineering team in Tokyo, we rapidly put together a page of information on Google Maps for our Crisis Response page.

And thanks to our colleagues in California and around the globe, within one hour of the earthquake we launched Google Person Finder, a tool to help locate missing people, in Japanese, Chinese and English. We published sites in Japanese and English with maps, news updates, videos, and resources. We also posted tsunami alerts on the Google homepage for appropriate domains to make sure as many people as possible saw the warning.
You can find a list of Crisises that Google has covered at http://www.google.com/crisisresponse/response.html 

and a list of web tools for presenting information at
http://www.google.com/crisisresponse/resources.html

Bottom Line

Hats off to Google for using its technical resources to make information available to the public during disasters.

I recall after the East Coast Blackout in the 90's listening two days from my NYC office for word that the metro trains were running again. On day 2 my wife called and said a friend could see the commuter train letting off passengers so ignore the official radio announcements and just go to Grand Central Terminal (GCT) and get on any train leaving the city. GCT was a spooky place with no lights, just the sun shining through the giant windows in the main hall. Men with megaphones announced trains departing and I got home.

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