Google provides online and smartphone resources for those affected by Superstorm Sandy

30 Oct 2012

As the full consequences of the devastating Superstorm Sandy become apparent for US and Canadian citizens whose homes and businesses lay in its path, Google has made new resources available earlier than planned.

Google is now sending Public Alerts to users searching for terms related to Superstorm Sandy which can be accessed via desktop browsers and on Google Maps for Android smartphones.

Across the eastern states of the US and parts of Canada, citizens have been waking up to scenes of devastation, 16 people are dead and at least 6m homes are without electricity. Streets and subways throughout New York are flooded and US President Barack Obama has declared a “major disaster” has hit the city.

Google Crisis Response product manager Nigel Snoad said new features that Google had been planning to introduce, including public alerts on these resources as well as Google Now on Android devices running Jelly Bean, but brought these forward because of the superstorm.

“Public Alerts provide warnings for natural disasters and emergency situations,” Snoad explained in the official Google blog.

“They appear based on targeted Google searches, such as [Superstorm Sandy], or with location-based search queries like [New York]. In addition to the alert, you’ll also see relevant response information, such as evacuation routes, crisis maps or shelter locations.

“We were planning on announcing the new features in a few days, but wanted to get them out as soon as possible so they can be helpful to people during this time.

“This is part of our continuing mission to bring emergency information to people when and where it is relevant. Public Alerts are primarily available in English for the US, but we are working with data providers across the world to expand their reach,” he said.

Snoad added that a strong network of partners, including NOAA and USGS, whose commitment to open standards like the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP), makes these services possible. 

“We’ve also developed partnerships to bring you even more relevant alerts in the future, including local emergency data from Nixle,” Snoad added.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years