As the whole world followed the news about Hurricane Sandy, the Americans who were actually affected hunkered down and got ready to face a beating from nature. Something that is not all that common in that particular part of the world. One element of the preparations and disaster response that we cannot ignore is technology. While we use technology in practically all aspects of life, it has shown its worth more than ever during – and after – Hurricane Sandy’s onslaught.
Even before the hurricane hit the US East Coast, social media was already abuzz with news reports and tips on disaster preparedness and safety. On Twitter, #Sandy quickly became a trending hashtag, providing the Twitterverse with easy access to information related to the hurricane.
Ordinary citizens helped any way they could, with some people posting information on animal shelters and links to information about how to ensure the safety of pets during the storm.
Note: as it can happen with citizen reporting, there were still some rotten apples who managed to spread false information. The lesson: social media should not be your sole source of info, and in any case, always double check for veracity.
Google was quick on the ball as well, as it set up an interactive map which showed users the predicted path of the storm. Additional data such as precipitation figures was integrated in the map, and perhaps even more useful, the locations of emergency shelters near the user’s area.
Popular weather service, AccuWeather, also joined the fray by starting a Hangout on Google+. The added value of this service was that people could join the Hangout to listen to and ask questions from meteorologists.
Tech startups in New York were not about to be left behind either. There were some companies who continued their services and even lowered fees to help out those in need. Airbnb, the room/house rental service, waived its fees for users in the areas hit by Hurricane Sandy. Some coworking spaces have also opened up their doors to people who have no Internet and working space.
…And a little dash of humor!
All these are excellent examples of how people took advantage of technology to make things easier or more bearable in the face of nature’s power. However, there is another way technology helped – to give people a break with some humorous elements thrown in. From silly photos to jokes about the weather – the affected Americans were still able to smile and chuckle in spite of their situation. Something that we all should remember.
[Image via arstechnica]