Just as Hurricane Sandy barreled towards the Northeast on Monday, Google unveiled a new crisis map that enables users to follow the storm’s path. Although the map is cool by nature, given its real-time, interactive capabilities, its availability is vital to those who lay in the storm’s path. This map also serves as a saving grace of information for long distance friends and family members who are concerned for their next of kin, and are unable to get in contact with them.
With the current death toll at 69 as a result of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction in the Caribbean, Google’s crisis map serves as an essential source of information for dwellers of the Northeast. Not only does the map offer real-time Doppler location of the storm but evacuation alerts, shelter locations, and flood warnings, amongst others. This helpful tool isn’t the first for the Google machine; they have also created maps and resource pages for the July 2012 California wildfires and the August 2012 floods in the Philippines.
Now, although the map serves as a useful tool in the event of natural disasters, one important note is that you may not always have access to it via your computer or mobile device. Most times during a storm of this magnitude, many people are without power and thus a strong Wi-Fi connection needed to power the Internet. The crisis map is a web-based application that requires the Internet to fully utilize the features. This is not to say that the map is completely obsolete, given that there are people who have sustained power; but for the estimated 7.4 million who do not have that luxury, preemptive measures must be taken.