Within moments of the explosions at the finish line of the Boson Marathon just before 3:00 pm today, Google put its Person Finder into action to help friends and family locate loved ones who might have been affected and were unreachable by cell phone. At 7:00 pm, the app was tracking about 3,300 records. CNN reports 2 were killed and more than 100 injured in the explosions.
The Red Cross’s Safe and Well app was also deployed to enable marathon participants or fans who are unharmed to register themselves on a list that concerned friends can search.
Google says its engineers built the web-based Person Finder app, a project of the Google Crisis Response division of the non-profit Google.org, to help reunite people after the January 2010 Haiti earthquake. “In 2005, during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, multiple websites created missing person registries, so families and aid workers had to search in multiple places when looking for information,” according to Google. “Google Person Finder addresses this problem by accepting data from other registries in a common format and searching over all the data.”
Nearly 12 years ago, in the aftermath of the World Trade Centers attacks, New Yorkers desperately searching for the more than 2,600 victims resorted to posting missing person photographs on bulletin boards around the city.