After Boston Marathon, Google releases people finder tool

Google has released a Boston Marathon version of its People Finder Tool, a web application that was initially developed three years ago in response to the earthquake in Haiti.

Google has launched a version of its Person Finder service for people caught up in the chaos following two explosions at the Boston Marathon.

The Google People Finder, which is a project of the Google Crisis Response division of Google.org, was developed to help those affected by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti connect with their loved ones, according to the company's website.

Even in the best of circumstances it can be difficult to find a friend or family member after the Boston Marathon, an event that attracts thousands of runners and spectators from all over the world. (I can attest to this personally.)

Under normal circumstances, runners go to a pre-arranged meeting place after the race to meet up with their friends or family. Race organizers have tried to make it easier to find runners post-race by erecting massive signs with the letters A through Z in an area a short walk from the finish line. Even with these easy-to-find meeting spots it can be a challenge to spot your runner in the sea of shorts, emergency blankets and race bibs that stream past spectators.

This year, it's utter chaos as law enforcement, the ATF, FBI and emergency officials respond to the area. Tweets from Boston Globe reporters describe a scene of "bewildered runners and spectators calling relatives on their cell phones."

Runners might not have their mobile phones on them, making it difficult to reach their family or friends. And even if they do, chances are they've had trouble getting through. The heavy volume of mobile calls following the explosions has reportedly clogged service, reported the Boston Globe.

The people finder tool isn't released for every disaster. The Google Crisis Team analyzes the scale of impact of the disaster and then determines which tools would be most useful for responding to the given situation, according to information posted by Google.

Google launched a people finder tool in the wake of the 2011 triple earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disaster in Japan.

Photo: Screenshot of Google People Finder

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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