Federal Computer Week is running a piece this week that discusses the same issues this site has been talking about for some time: the many individual and community-run sites that have bested government-provided information during disasters. Says the story:
David Stephenson, whose blog is posted at www.stephensonstrategies.com, said that if authorities created a guidebook of tools in advance, they could better help citizens and first responders during crises.
Federal, state and local governments have to think out of the box. And the Web, by its nature, can eliminate the box. For example, organizations could build official wikis that allow first responders and authorities to contribute information, he said.
CompanyCommand.com, for example, lets military personnel share threaded discussions on issues such as improvised explosive devices. The site allows warfighters on the battlefield to share new information in a real-time environment. That could be a model for first responders, Stephenson said.
An application on Flickr.com lets people add information about specific locations on aerial maps. During disasters, government officials and the public could instantly share those photographs, Stephenson said.
"If you had a childhood home, you could tag that map with little anecdotes about the house as you remembered it, and over time, the house would have its own history," he said. "However, what occurred to me as the flooding was going on was that you could tag a roofline with: 'I think there's an elderly lady who might not have gotten out -- please check.'"
Still, bureaucracy being what it is, it seems likely that these things have to remain in the hands of private companies, individuals, and community projects. Let the government just be wise enough to