Designing for disaster relief

This week Facebook launched Safety Check, a new feature that lets you notify your family and friends that you are safe in case a disaster hits the area in which you are. This is only the last iteration in the company efforts to increase their role in disaster response, realizing the huge power social media has had in recent disasters.

From small grassroots initiatives promoted by users, like those displayed during hurricane Sandy of users’ Facebook Pages of community sharing food or offering help finding lost pets among others, to more institutionalized efforts, like the Disaster Response on Facebook page, where the company highlights the efforts of the community on preparedness and recovery from natural disasters; Facebook is gaining spotlight as a tool for disaster relief as people turn to this outlet to find information on loved ones, supplies, shelter, among other things.
And Facebook is not the only company taking on this challenge, early this year AirBnB launched a partnership with the cities of portland and San Francisco to identify potential hosts who will welcome displaced people in case a disaster hits and also provide information to help their community be more prepared. This initiative comes after the company saw how over a thousand AirBnB hosts opened their doors to people in need during hurricane Sandy.
It is also the case of SF72, the San Francisco Hub for emergency preparedness, which primary aim is to connect citizens willing to offer resources and services in time of disaster with those in need. Building on existing services like Facebook, Twitter, Google Drive, Nextdoor, and AirBnB, the service helps users to get ready for an emergency, based on the notion that social connection is one of the best tools for people to prepare for and overcome a disaster.
This are only a few examples of how tech companies are taking their services and putting them to use in case of disaster, and with the increasing pervasion of technology in our lives the possibilities to create new and better solutions in this field are also growing.