In Case of Emergency: 7 Sites and Tools To Get You Through Natural Disasters

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I like to think of myself as a Hurricane veteran. Growing up in Miami – hurricane capital of the US – I slept through a lot of hurricanes, including Hurricane Andrew. So, when Hurricane Sandy planned a trip to NYC I rolled my eyes – until I heard that Sandy would bring friends.

After diligently preparing to be without power for at least a week, I waited for Sandy. When it became risky to watch from a window, I turned to the internet. Using a collection of sites and digital tools, I was able to get an amazing bird’s-eye and ground view of Hurricane Sandy. These sites are helpful resources for anyone affected by a storm and for support volunteers looking for ways to help.

For me, these sites were especially useful for staying aware of the state of the NYC and New Jersey after Sandy hit. These tools can and should be used in any emergency whether local, national, or international.

 The Weather Channel Livestream and Hurricane Tracker

For weather emergencies, The Weather Channel offers reliable coverage and tools for tracking weather conditions in real-time. TWC’s Livestream and Hurricane Tracker were pinned tabs in my Chrome browser at all times.

Using these tools I was able to receive real-time information as well as predictions about Sandy’s movements. Winter Storm Central is great dashboard for winter storm Nemo, but it doesn’t compare to the usefulness of tools like the Hurricane Tracker.

YouTube: Telling Us What Twitter Can’t

For all the joy a Netflix subscription brings to my pockets, it doesn’t help me at all during emergencies like Hurricane Sandy the way good old expensive cable can. Enter YouTube, livestreaming major events all over the U.S.

If you’ve cut the cord with cable TV, YouTube is the next best resource to get important news updates during major events. In the case of Hurricane Sandy, YouTube and The Weather Channel had a clear and consistent livestream up and running from start to finish.

Google Crisis Response

Google Crisis Response Map

Google Crisis Response maps are a powerful tool for tracking alerts, warnings, and relief efforts during major events such as Hurricane Sandy.  Not only did the crisis maps for Sandy track the storm and forecasted paths in real-time, they also aggregate important information like:

  • Public alerts via weather.gov and earthquake.usgs.gov.
  • Evacuation information and routes
  • Shelters and recovery centers
  • Storm footage and related YouTube videos, curated by
  • Power outage maps (including number of people out of power)
  • Gas station maps (during gas shortages)

When the power goes out, simple tools like these make it easier to quickly get the information you need to stay safe and aware. It’s especially easy to access this information on Google Search, Google Maps and Google Now on Jellybean phones (Android 4.1). You can check out the Sandy NYC Crisis Response map or the current Winter Storm Nemo Crisis Response map here.

Twitter: Where Everybody Knows Your Neighborhood

What would any emergency be without Twitter? A  boring one if you ask me…

From rumors to real-time fact-checking with tons of shit-talking in between, Twitter is the place to be during any emergency. It’s where the details and nuisances of events can be heard or corrected in some cases. Find out what streets are blocked off, where fires are starting or if power is out for everyone in your area using Twitter.

Twitter is where the world comes to collectively share just about every major event. You’re more likely to get accurate information about your area during any major event from Twitter first.

Instagram: The Eyes —and Imaginations — of the People

If Twitter is about sharing an experience with the world, Instagram brings the world into your experience, and vice versa.

#Instacane

The Instagram community is full of resilient and powerful storytellers. #instacane is a prime example of the IG community revealing an up-close and personal look at events from the ground floor. Individual experiences of Hurricane Sandy collide to paint an extraordinary story of the effects of the entire event as a whole from the eyes of millions of people experience the same thing. It’s truly an incredible thing to see and experience in this day and age.

Another more recent example of the power of storytelling on IG is #iVoted, which popped-up during 2012′s Presidential Elections.

CNN Live: What the Public Needs During Emergencies

In between Weather Channel commercial breaks, I watched CNN Live using my mom’s AT&T U-Verse account (thanks mom!).

CNN Live is another source to keep up with how things are looking on the ground floor and from a bird’s-eye view. The only caveat with CNN Live is that it’s not open to the public – and it needs to be during emergencies like Sandy.

Facebook: Keep in Touch

While Twitter took the cake for blow-by-blow accounts of Hurricane Sandy, it was Facebook that kept people in touch with loved ones that are far away.

In the midst of this emergency, Facebook proved to be a pivitol tool for letting loved ones know you’re alright. A list of the top 10 shared terms on Facebook during Hurricane Sandy consisted of phrases like “stay safe/ be safe“, “we are ok“, “made it“, and many more phrases of reassurance.

When the power lines are down and you can still use your cellphone, Facebook is an effective way to quickly and privately reassure loved ones that you’re alright.

In Case of an Emergency…

What tools do use in emergency situations similar to Sandy? What resources do you rely on to stay aware and informed?

My favorite tools during Hurricane Sandy were the Google Crisis Response Maps, TWC Hurricane Tracker and Instagram. My Twitter followers kept me laughing through the entire storm.

Google Crisis Response maps are extremely effective to those affected by major natural disasters. I love how these maps are available on a wide array of devices and via Google services that people use everyday like Google Now.

Still, Instagram is usually the real star. Nothing compares to seeing the story of Hurricane Sandy unfold from start to finish through thousands of images. The anticipation and preparation, the wait, impact, relief, despair and destruction were all captured in real-time on Instagram. And you could witness it all from #instacane.

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