How Texans Are Using Technology to Help Stranded Citizens

Hurricane Harvey just swept a path of destruction through Texas and many of the surrounding states. The damage has been enormous, and has not yet even been fully calculated–the final dollar amount will, no doubt, be an impressive figure.

More impressive, though, has been the incredible public response to the storm. Everyday Texas citizens have piloted their boats to help their neighbors in need. One of the unsung heroes of the Harvey rescue efforts has been technology.

One thing has been made resoundingly clear over the last week: for all the jibes they might take from other regions of the country, Texans are a proud, kind people, and they’ll go out of their way to help people in need. One of the most heroic examples of this big Texas spirit is a story that NPR recently released. It’s a story of compassion, bravery, and–interestingly enough–some pretty intelligent utilization of technology.

Many hurricane victims had no access to internet service. Thankfully, the rescue teams and ordinary citizens were well-equipped. In a way that America, and indeed the world, hadn’t fully seen yet, the internet provided Houston’s rescuers with an unprecedented ability to communicate with and find people in need.

The Texas Navy’s use of social media platforms like Facebook (as well as the relative newcomer, Zello) is nearly without precedent in an American natural disaster. Coupled with advanced tracking ability made possible by mobile device, and even old-fashioned radios, a host of technologies played an important role in the Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts.

Savvy volunteers also had the forethought to fill a Google spreadsheet with information about those they rescued (and those who still needed to be rescued) This level of organization was made possible both by the valiant efforts of volunteers, as well as our ever-improving technology.

One can’t help but think of the potential applications of technologies like these in the future–perhaps bringing with it a day when all cities are fully prepared for the worst to happen.

We extend our deepest sympathies to the brave people affected by this dreadful storm. While there isn’t necessarily any sort of a “bright side” to an event like this, it does prove that, even in a heavily-divided age, people are still willing to set aside all of their differences so they can actually make a difference.

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Dil Bole Oberoi