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Google Crisis Response: How your information can be quickly & widely distributed in a crisis
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How your information can be quickly & widely distributed in a crisis


Individuals and organizations (e.g., government, nonprofit, schools, utilities) with information important to the public during times of crisis (e.g., transit information, power outages, shelter lists, and weather paths).

Why take these actions:  

When a crisis strikes, you’ll want to get information out to the public as quickly and broadly as possible so that people can take action.  Unfortunately, a lot of technical and organizational challenges arise during times of crisis that get in the way of these goals: large volumes of traffic crash websites, people duplicate work, and data gets lost in the shuffle.  These following tips will help you prepare your technology to stay up in times of crisis and make it possible for others to access and distribute your information.  


Review this checklist with your Information Technology (IT) staff or technical service provider/s:

Free Google Tools:

These products can help you implement the checklist above.  Give them a try.

Case Studies:  

Hurricane Irene, Vermont, USA: After Hurricane Irene passed New York, it made its way across Vermont, dropping massive quantities of rain, overflowing many rivers and streams.  Many roads and bridges were washed out or damaged, and numerous towns were totally cut off.  The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) kept close track of the status of state roads and bridges as they were repaired, but their web infrastructure was ill-suited to meet the high demand brought on by the crisis.  In order to adjust to this heavy volume and disseminate critical information to the public, VTrans published a KML feed of their road and bridge status data, and made it available through a Google Maps Application Programming Interface (API) based map which was easily published on the VTrans website, as well as the websites of other state agencies and news outlets.  Thousands of citizens in Vermont benefited from the information on this map.


Thailand and Southeast Asia Floods: In the fall of 2011, Thailand and South East Asia were grappling with their worst floods in 50 years. Heavy monsoon rains had left more than 500 people dead, and 9 million people affected.  As soon as there were signs of an approaching disaster, UNITAR’s Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT), at the request of the Asia Pacific Development Center (APDC), created maps showing flooding areas across the region, and collected georeferenced photos using the Android apps GEO-PICTURES. This information was published in KML so it could be accessible and widely distributed.  Google team members helped them publish the information using the Google Maps API so that they could embed their data, along with contributions from other individuals and organizations such as photos, roads closures, shelter locations, photos, donation centers data, on a Google Map within their website.  They were then able to disseminate this to a broad audience by announcing it via email, podcasts. blogs, press and social media to relief organizations and residents. Using these open tools to integrate flood & relief information from various sources resulted in more accurate information and a wider distribution during a time of need.

Links for more information:

These references describe the technologies discussed above to get you started on implementing them.