First of all, my heart felt condolences to all those who have lost lives and property in the earthquake that just happened in Japan today. It is considered the 5th largest one since 1900, from when we started keeping serious track of these earth quakes. This time however, the effect of something like the world’s 5th largest earthquake is not bringing in as much news of destruction and loss. Its an absolutely fantastic thing to happen, so what has changed ? A few years ago if there would have been an event like this one in a place like Japan, where cities have some of the highest density of people on the planet, there would be more loss of life and property.
What has had an impact is the engineering and the government codes and standards. These are the unsung heroes of Japan, who might or might not be recognized in the near future, but should be. Having spend the last 7 years in the building industry, I know how incredibly difficult it gets sometimes for engineers and architects to keep with the budgets, while maintaining budgets. Japanese architects and engineers have since mastered the art, with the infamous Japanese Engineering. Like testing entire building strengths for Earthquake proofing, or designs like the door above that works as a shield in terms of an earthquake.
Apart from the fact that the building codes and standards are helping with the incident, the other part is the way the digital world has evolved, from providing up to date information on the quake on Twitter right up until, videos on YouTube and Facebook. Videos Like these below have been showing up on Youtube and Facebook at the rate of hundreds per hour.
But the real power of Social Media was not really shown by Twitter or Facebook, but the miracle of Social Media happened when Google showed up to help.
Unlike companies who are providing condolences on their website, Google has reacted to the devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Japan with a tool that helps you find a person or provide information on missing persons. The site also aggregates important resources, maps and other related information.
Google has previously used the Person Finder tool. The Japan earthquake version of the tool currently lists about 5,500 records, but the number is rising quickly as news about the catastrophe spreads around the world. Although the tool can be useful for finding information about a friend or a loved one, Google warns users that it doesn’t review or verify the accuracy of the data.
Google’s Crisis Center also shows a map of the earthquake, the latest related news and lists link to warning centers, disaster bulletin boards, and train and blackout information. Another example of why I love Google, and how a complete City Wide Data Management can be achieved through some of Google’s tools.