Meadville Tribune

Local News

May 18, 2013

Technology speeds disaster alerts, response

Monson, Mass. — Caitria O’Neill remembers her reaction to hearing tornado warnings on June 1, 2011. She went to the grocery store and said, “because I live in Massachusetts, and we don’t get tornadoes.”

By the time she got home, hail the size of baseballs was falling. Even as she watched a lamppost blow past, what was happening didn’t register.

Fortunately, her father got her inside and into the basement before the tornado blew out the windows, ripped off the roof and knocked their house slightly off its foundation.

O’Neill, then 22, and her family emerged to devastation. Her town of 8,500 people, Monson, Mass., had just withstood an EF-3 tornado that destroyed more than 60 buildings including town hall, damaged 200 others, and would lead to one death.

Pressed into service, O’Neill helped organize volunteers gathering at a church across the street. What she observed about the process inspired her and her sister Morgan, an Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student, to start an online software company, recovers.org, to help people prepare for disasters and respond more effectively.

In a world that can be app-addled, it’s tempting to dismiss the idea that technology will solve all problems. Yet, technology has changed the way Americans get ready for disasters and respond to them — with more precise forecasts, personalized weather warnings and more efficient recovery efforts. And it will continue to help us be more prepared.

Recovers.org

Recovers.org is a fledgling company with a web-based software that helps individuals and communities plan for emergencies. After a disaster, it matches victims’ needs with volunteers and donations. Its technology can’t compare to major breakthroughs in forecasting that occurred in the 1990s, like Doppler radar, which lets the public “see” tornadoes before they form. Or the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory model, the first computer simulation to successfully merge information about the ocean and atmosphere to predict hurricane courses and intensities.

But Brian M. Brooks calls the web software “a godsend.” The city manager in Forney, Texas, Brooks used recovers.org when a tornado outbreak destroyed about 20 houses, a business and a school in his East Texas community on April 3, 2012. Coordinating with Community Life Church, the city set up a registry of people who needed help and people willing to volunteer goods or services. Cooper Taylor, the church’s mission director, said the website greatly reduced unwanted donations and storage problems.

Recovers.org is one example of technology pushing preparedness and recovery into the hands of communities and individuals. Even small towns now use established databases and GPS mapping tools to do things like track private storm shelters.

Communities can respond to disasters differently, too. The same GPS technology can be used to plot downed trees. At least one company sells a system that tags trees and other debris with bar codes to ensure haulers don’t overcharge local governments and FEMA.

Text Only
Local News
  • Well inspectors trying to keep up during boom time

    The state’s 83 well inspectors face a daunting enough challenge keeping tabs on 120,000 active oil and gas wells that have been drilled over the last century.

    July 27, 2014

  • cycle Young stunt cyclist to bring show to 'Thunder'

    V-v-v-v-eroom! is the high-pitched whine from the Honda CBR 600 sport motorcycle as Steven Pilic rolls back the throttle and speeds down the asphalt. In one quick, smooth motion — just like you put one foot in front of the other — he shifts his weight forward on the handlebars, jumps from the bike’s foot pegs, lands his feet on the seat and pulls the 400-plus pounds of metal up onto its back wheel, using a combination of balance, brakes, clutch and speed to circle slowly at first and then faster and faster, tighter and tighter while doing a wheelie.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tornado watch issued for Crawford County

    The National Weather Service in Cleveland has issued a tornado watch for Crawford County.

     

    July 27, 2014

  • SUNDAY ISSUE: 'Free-range' parenting

    The case of a woman arrested after leaving her daughter at a park while she went to work is sparking discussion across South Carolina — and even the rest of the country.

    July 26, 2014

  • pymatuning History majors rule at Pioneer & Art Festival

    Those looking for living history exhibits at the 21st annual Pymatuning Pioneer & Art Festival weren’t disappointed Saturday.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Organizers ready to stimulate Meadville with next weekend's Thunder in the City

    Started six years ago by Dave Stone, owner of Mickey’s Central Station, as an event to “increase commerce and stimulate the economy,” the annual Thunder in the City Classic Car and Motorcycle Show in Meadville has done that — and lots more.

    July 25, 2014

  • Conneautville celebrating 200 years

    Thursday was a relaxed opening day at the Conneautville Bicentennial Celebration, but things will get hopping today — literally. A frog jumping contest is scheduled for 6 p.m.

    July 25, 2014

  • PennDOT seeking outside help to make bridge repairs

    State officials are poised to sign a massive deal that will enlist outside help to rebuild and maintain up to 600 bridges, marking the Corbett administration’s latest foray into privatizing key government functions.

    July 24, 2014

  • Stabbing charges dismissed against Bloomfield woman

    A Bloomfield Township woman accused of stabbing her live-in companion last month is a free woman after the alleged victim in the case didn’t appear in court Wednesday.

    July 24, 2014

  • Guys Mills boy wins national PBS Kids Writers Contest

    July 24, 2014

Business Marquee
AP Video
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks