One of the biggest storms in the history of the eastern seaboard hit a few days before Halloween this year. Officials knew far ahead of time that Sandy would be something for the record books; a variety of atmospheric and weather conditions were likely to combine into a disaster.
Sandy was the perfect storm. The “Frankenstorm,” as it was named, hammered the New Jersey coastline as well as New York City and everything in between. Flooding, fires, power outages, sinkholes, and much more occurred as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Many people have died throughout the storm’s path.
But, at the same time, the technology that powers the Web 2.0 movement saved many lives. Twitter, one of the beacons of communication and interaction, and also a keystone of Web 2.0 philosophy, played a huge role in helping residents prepare for Sandy. Twitter was an easy way to get timely and vital information out to millions of people in a split second. NYC officials and NJ officials could inform residents through Twitter about evacuation zones, shelters, and numerous other preparatory steps.
People were able to get their questions about storm preparation answered quickly and easily. People even relied on Twitter to reach emergency authorities when 911 or 311 were overloaded. Facebook was also a great tool of communication and information during Hurricane Sandy. The Red Cross used data from Twitter and Facebook to create a real-time map of information and people who needed help. This allowed them to respond to emergencies faster and more efficiently.
A few weeks ago, we wrote about the h4d2 hackathon. The work done at the conference is exactly the type of work that needs to be done to integrate Web 2.0 into disaster relief. Because of Hurricane Sandy, it looks like emergency officials have been paying attention to how useful Web 2.0 can be in a disaster. Hopefully, the integration of Web 2.0 tech will continue to improve the response to crisis in the future.