The Calm Before Sandy

According to a story in the New York Times and a Google blog post, Google rushed the release of Hurricane Sandy maps which aggregate publicly available data to create some powerful  emergency resources including alerts and  mapping tools which track the storm and point to relief services.  While some of these resources may not provide the highest value in the post-storm environment they certainly demonstrate  highest and best use of the web and social media in crisis response and  mitigation.

Maps include:

•Location tracking, including the hurricane’s current and forecasted paths, courtesy of the NOAA-National Hurricane Center

•Public alerts, including evacuation notices, storm warnings, and more, via and

•Radar and cloud imagery from and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

•Evacuation information and routes

•Shelters and recovery centers will appear as they become operational

•Storm footage and storm-related YouTube videos, curated by Storyful

NYC Subway Post Sandy cc

Public alerts, to show warnings about natural disasters and emergencies based on information from government agencies like and the National Weather Service. The alerts will  show up in response to searches on and Google Maps, and appear unprompted on the cellphones of people with the latest version of Android, through Google Now.

“This is part of our continuing mission to bring emergency information to people when and where it is relevant,” Nigel Snoad, a product manager for Google Crisis Response, wrote in a company blog post.

A map of the storm area. Using Google Maps, the company has created Markers show where power is out; the location of evacuation shelters and routes; traffic conditions; and where surges, floods and high winds are expected. There are also public alerts. People can choose different views, including the addition of cloud imagery or location-based Webcams and YouTube videos to the map.

A New York City map shows shelters, Webcams, evacuation routes and other information from NYC Open Data, the city’s Web site for sharing data with software developers.

The public alerts and maps are products of Google Crisis Response, part of, the company’s nonprofit arm, whose focus is to use Google products and engineers to help solve problems. It was started in 2005 in response to Hurricane Katrina and has published online resources for disasters like hurricanes and oil spills since then, including the person finder feature that was used after the Japan earthquake.

For the Sandy maps, Google has drawn information from the Red Cross, the National Hurricane Center,, Storyful and the United States Naval Research Laboratory, among others.