When Hurricane Sandy arrived two weeks ago, city officials turned to text messaging as a means to deliver crucial information in a time of emergency. In today’s App City column in The New York Times, Mobile Commons’ text messaging solution was mentioned as a key tool used during this time of crisis.
As the crisis unfolded, it became clear that government agencies who were already using mobile effectively year round were well equipped to handle communication problems in the face of a disaster. However, government agencies who waited until disaster struck were ill prepared and did not have the necessary tools in place.
In an article entitled “New Tools for Disaster Aid,” The New York Times writesGovernment officials have been working with wireless carriers to build the alert system, which contacts anyone within an affected geographic area whose mobile devices can get text messages. The storm was the first time the system was used in New York.
The article also notes that tech firms and the city are now looking for other ways to provide technology-related relief efforts. In addition to the basic needs of food, water, and shelter, it is becoming evident that there is a large need for connectivity.
The New York Times also describes how city officials have favored text messaging over the use of smart phone applications.Many of the most effective have spurned fancy development in favor of the humble text. Local officials established automated systems that let residents get information about closed schools or relocated polling centers by sending text messages. Volunteers who were pumping out flooded basements are using similar techniques to coordinate their efforts. These text messaging campaigns were easy to get running, largely because local government had already been using the techniques.
Our CTO, Ben Stein, was quoted in the article.
“There wasn’t a scramble to get it together,” said Ben Stein, one of the founders of Mobile Commons, a company helping run many of these campaigns. “It’s an obvious tool to use in this kind of disaster.”