Finding answers during times of chaos is no easy task. With millions still shaken following the events at the Boston Marathon, we take a look at how technology played a role in delivering information to the masses as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Once cellular service began having disruptions due to the high volume of activity, WiFi became the most reliable connection and social media was the best form of communication. Twitter was the most utilized of all social media platforms. Boston Police tweeted to request any video of the incident, the city informed people to text rather than call in an attempt to get in touch with friends and loved ones because it uses less bandwidth, and the Red Cross notified people that there was enough blood in storage so rushing to donate was not a priority. Though some may criticize or question the usefulness of social media and other tech platforms, there is no doubt people felt an immediate sense of relief after seeing a friend’s tweet or Facebook post saying they were safe.
Google took immediate action by creating a Person Finder project specifically for the incident; more than 5,400 people have provided information. Similarly, the Red Cross encouraged people to register on the Safe & Well program. Both programs allowed people to submit their name and current location into the searchable database. These programs provided concerned friends and family a quick reference to look for people they knew were in the area without having to reach out to each person individually.
Perhaps most simple but significant action was taken by Boston.com. The site created shareable Google Doc files for both people seeking a place to stay and for those offering housing. With flights being cancelled and hotels being evacuated, the ability to share contact and housing information became a priceless asset. Within hours, over 1,200 people offered housing to those in need and that number continued to grow by the minute.
During times of crisis, communication and information gathering become even more important. If technology was able to help people find a place to stay, get in touch with a loved one, or discover ways to help those affected by the senseless act of violence, then it more than served its purpose.