by: Lisa DuBrock, Contributing Editor and Writer

Earthquakes…they have always been a part of our world, but it seems that recently they have been particularly devastating.  I’m not talking here about devastating in a financial sense  — but, rather, in a loss of life.  In the last 15 months alone we have experienced major quakes in Haiti, Chile, New Zealand and now Japan. All of these quakes have produced a tragic loss of life.  They have also produced a high level of panic, fear, frustration and anxiety for the multitudes of family and friends frantically looking for their loved ones.  The amount of people personally touched by these disasters around the world is too numerous to count.  The long term effects on people’s emotions unknown.  So, in the middle of experiencing such a disaster — how do you reach out and find someone? 

As little as 10 years ago, reaching a loved one during a disaster was almost impossible, especially if the land based phone lines were down.  If the phone lines were down or overloaded, your fear and anxiety level soared as you tried to reach that loved one. Cellular service was also not as ubiquitous as it is today — at that time, it was typically limited to voice based communication and was also frequently unavailable.   

Enter the world of the smart phone, SMS texting and more robust mobile networks.  Now with the invention of social networking, ‘apps’  and the help of Google – the ultimate search engine — finding a loved one, while no less fearful, may be just a little easier. 

During the Haiti earthquake crisis, Google set up a crisis response project led by an engineer, Prem Ramaswami.  That project was called “People Finder”. 

What an incredible concept —, e.g. the world’s biggest search engine providing a forum to virtually search for people affected by a disaster.  The People Finder concept at Google has only grown over the last year. 

For the recent quake in Japan alone the page has captured 250,000 entries and has evolved into a true crisis response page.  There are resources listed including Alarms and Warnings, Shelter Information and Disaster Message Boards to name a few.   Click here to see the Google Crisis Response board regarding status reports being posted in Japan.

Another type of communication and as a forum for assisting in the location of individuals was recently launched as an ‘app’ based software for smartphones. 

In particular, the iPhone has an ‘app’ called QuakeSOS.  QuakeSOS launched last year and allows an individual to send a quick response message after an earthquake stating that ‘I’m safe’ or ‘Help Me’.  The application, at the same time, also captures your GPS coordinates so a person can be located. 

These are just a few of the new resources that are available now and will continue to evolve over time to better assist in bringing friends and relatives together in the aftermath of a disaster.

Without question, this kind of technology will assist the teams of disaster recovery and 1st responders in their ability to locate victims of disasters, and most certainly and hopefully provide some level of “piece of mind” – a truly necessary support function so critical to those victims of tragedy such as we are seeing today in Japan.

If applicable, please pass this information to those disaster recovery, crisis management and first responder team members in your organization, your community and most importantly to members of your family.

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