Are You Safe?

Photo Courtesy of Thunderchild7

Photo Courtesy of Thunderchild7

When a hurricane hits or a terrorist attacks, how can you find out if your loved ones living in the area are safe?

Cell service could be cut off, as happened in the terrorist event at the Boston Marathon. What options are available?

Here are a couple to consider:

Google Person FinderGoogle Person Finder

This tool is designed to reconnect family and friends in the aftermath of a disaster or humanitarian emergency. It allows individuals to search for the status of specific persons and receive updates on them. This application can be embedded in personal webpages for ease of use and access.

Google’s Crisis Response division developed this tool after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Google Person Finder can mine data from other registries in a common format. After Katrina in 2005, many different websites provided a scattering of missing persons registries, a consolidation problem…now solved. Once the crisis is over, Google deletes the repository, as it has in regard to the Boston Marathon event.

American Red CrossThe American Red Cross: Safe and Well

This web application allows you to register yourself as “Safe and Well”, to ease your loved ones minds, as well as search for those who are missing.

Hope you never have the need to use these, but doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Have you ever been in a near-panic, unable to reach a loved one during a time of epic crisis? How did you finally reach him or her?

Haiti Volunteer Slapped with $35,000 phone bill

Volunteering can provide many rewards—but some, you may not want. American aid worker, Kerfye Pierre was rewarded for her service in Haiti during the aftermath of the devastating earthquake with a whopper of a phone bill—$34,872.82 to be exact. She thought T-Mobile’s offer to waive service fees for volunteers included the whole package. BUT, it was only voice, not text or data.

This brings up a couple of troublesome issues.

1) It’s a disaster setting. By definition, things are not functioning regularly. As ridiculous as it may sound, people tend to forget that. Logistics and communications are huge variables. Kerfye says that text messages would go through, but it was much harder to get through with voice. Hence, she chose the text route and sending messages to family and friends through her Facebook page.

2) As of right now, mobile phone companies can just sit back and let you rack up the costs as you text your merry way into severe debt.

Fortunately, the Federal Communication Commission is proposing new rules that will prevent ‘bill shock’ like this—possibly forcing mobile phone companies to send alerts, letting you know when you’re incurring extra charges. As of now, T-Mobile has dropped Kerfye Pierre’s bill down to $5,000. How nice of them. The company said most people were aware of the parameters. Of course! She should’ve taken the time to read the terms and conditions. I mean, all she was doing was setting up day camps for kids and distributing water after a disaster where over 220,000 people had died. She certainly could’ve done a little night reading by flashlight.

Have you ever had an experience where you’ve tried to do something good and received a totally unexpected backlash?