One of our readers pointed me to this mashup created by KPBS in San Diego that combines critical evacuation information like neighborhoods affected, closed roads, nearest evacuation center, etc. Yahoo News has a story on the mashup too.
This post has two points: 1) To spread the word about the mashup to anyone affected by the SoCal fires. Last I heard, 350,000 people were being evacuated. 2) To underline the fact that New Web has really useful applications for emergency management.
I was just talking to Paul today about Twitter. We followed a similar path to Twitter, i.e. we started off thinking it was ridiculous, then used it a little and weren’t convinced, and now are finally seeing some value. This is content for another post, but the point is that a lot of the classic hallmarks of Web 2.0 (blogs, micro-blogs, social networks, etc.) are considered by many to be trivial wastes of time.
Not so, as evidenced by the mashup KPBS created. Or by the live reports of the shootings at Virginia Tech campus that surfaced through blogs. Or by the first reports of an earthquake in Mexico City surfaced as tweets on Twitter. Or by the mashups created with Google Maps to chronicle the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
This list will get longer and longer, and some relief agencies have already incorporated them into disaster plans, e.g. the Red Cross has both a blog and a Twitter feed (by way of Dennis McDonald) and the LAFD has been using Twitter to spread fire information along with other 2.0 tools.
These are all great examples of how New Web can be used to help people in a crisis. Many of these services, like Twitter, have versions optimized for mobile phones too, so people can get information anywhere without a computer.
Anyway, I wish the best to anyone affected by the fires. I saw them firsthand in October 2003, and you really can’t fathom how bad they are unless you’re near one. It’s not just the fires, which incidentally are incredibly dangerous for fire fighters. It’s the cleanup, the terrible air quality, the animal shelters full of homeless pets, and the landslides come Winter, created by the burnoff of vegetation. My wife and I rescued 60 cats who were going to be euthanized from an animal shelter in San Bernadino after the fires in 2003. We got amazing support from the San Francisco SPCA and other organizations in Los Angeles.
Once the fires are out and the immediate danger has passed, these people are not entirely safe. The ramifications of wildfires continue months after the actual fires have been extinguished.