Google Offers Online Help For Philippines Typhoon Victims

Google launches online services and tools to help victims of the devastating Typhoon Yolanda

Google has launched its response to the destructive typhoon that has devastated large swathes of the Philippines.

The search engine giant has created an online Typhoon Yolanda Crisis Page to help victims reconnect with friends and family members around the world.

Disaster Relief

The Crisis Page harnesses a wide range of Google services, from a person locator to relief maps and more, according to a 12 November post by Aileen Apolo, the outreach program manager for Google Southeast Asia, on The Official Blog.

“We’ve launched several tools, available on our Typhoon Yolanda crisis page, to help gather and relay information in connection with the incredible devastation that’s occurred in the Philippines,” wrote Apolo. “These resources include Google Person Finder, a Web application that allows individuals to post and search for the status of family or friends affected by the disaster.”

Users can click on the “I’m Looking for Someone” icon and type in individuals’ names to see if their status has been reported in the site, wrote Apolo. Victims of the disaster can also let other people know that they are safe or that they have heard from others by clicking on the “I have information about someone” icon and typing in their important information. “As the number of names and records build, the tool will hopefully make it easier for those who are safe to pass on their news to anyone worried about them,” she wrote.

The Person Finder can also be accessed using mobile phones where Internet access is not available, wrote Apolo. “You can request status via [Short Message Service] by sending an SMS to 2662999 (Globe subscribers), 4664999 (SMART subscribers), 22020999 (Sun subscribers), or +16508003977 with the message “Search” and then the person’s name,” wrote Apolo. “For example, if you are searching for Joshua Reyes, send the message “Search Joshua Reyes.”

A Typhoon Yolanda Relief Map has also been created and posted by Google to provide updates on shelters and other information in the disaster zone, according to Apolo. The tools are freely available to others to embed into their sites so that additional outlets can spread to help the victims of the typhoon, wrote Apolo. “The more people who contribute to them, the more useful they’ll be,” she wrote.

Google is also donating $500,000 (£311,895) to be split between two organisations working on the ground to help victims of the disaster, wrote Apolo. The money is going to CARE and the Philippine Red Cross to aid with relief efforts. Google has also created links on the Crisis Page where individuals can make their own donations to help the victims of the massive storm, which has killed at least 10,000 people, according to news reports.

Google Response

The Philippines Crisis Page is the latest effort by Google to assist victims around the globe when calamity strikes. The page is provided to the public by the company’s philanthropic division, which also provides Crisis Map services that help monitor and track major storms, natural disasters and other emergency events to assist during local disasters.

Hurricane SandyIn October 2012, Google created a Crisis Map for the East Coast of the United States in preparation for the approaching Hurricane Sandy. That map had several hurricane-related layers, including current and forecast locations, cloud and wind information, and public alerts featuring emergency information such as evacuation routes.

The Hurricane Sandy map showed a wide range of information layers that detailed many aspects of the approaching storm, including its current location, forecast location, weather radar, wind speed probabilities, emergency alerts and hurricane evacuation routes. Also available were information layers for traffic conditions, active emergency shelters, disaster recovery centres, storm surge zones and catalogues of YouTube videos that have been shot and uploaded to show the effects of the storm.

Google’s Crisis Response team has been providing such information for the last few years, albeit on a more reactive, rather than proactive, basis.

In August 2012 Google published a Crisis Response map for Tropical Storm Isaac as it approached the US Gulf Coast, and another for massive flooding that occurred in the Philippines following a monsoon. Google also created such maps after earthquakes in Haiti and Chile in 2010, after the tsunami and earthquake in Japan in 2011, and after the BP oil spill in the Gulf in 2010 and Hurricane Irene in the United States in 2011.

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Originally published on eWeek.