Amazing ways we exchange crisis information

Like many of you, I’m still reeling in shock at the swift and horrific destruction from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I also have friends and family there, which makes this disaster hit closer to home — not to mention, we were all on this side of the Pacific bracing for a potential tsunami.

I’ve experienced various earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunami watches over time, but this event was different from all others because of the vast technological resources that are now commonplace in society. My first notification of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami came during dinner via texts, which then prompted me to check my Twitter feed.

Here in Hawaii, we were fortunate to have five hours lead time to prepare for the potential tsunami, thanks again to technology that the weather services use and the way news gets to us. It was comforting to text and tweet with my neighbors, who were ready and checking on me to get home safely. The live updates via twitter showed us what our friends were going through across the state.

Unfortunately, AT & T service seemed to shut down for most people here, and texting or calling was no longer an option after about 10 p.m. I couldn’t text my cousins Celia Chu Lines in Singapore or Patrick Chu in Tokyo to see if they were okay. I managed to tweet Jamshed Wadia, Celia’s coworker, to get information on both cousins. Celia eventually sent me a message via Facebook to check on our tsunami status, and I heard from Patrick in email shortly after.

The other cool tool for checking on my friends across the Pacific was Ustream, which enables you to watch video live via the internet. Shay Fukayama, currently living in Tokyo, turned on her livestream so friends from around the world could tune in and see how she (and anyone around her) was doing. All traditional news outlets were sharing video and photos instantly through similar technologies.

Although this has been a terrible and devastating experience, I think the world was able to keep informed and mobilize faster with the help of the innovative tools available to us.

And now, moving forward, you can use technology to instantly help our friends affected by the earthquake. Donate to the Hawaii Red Cross, or the Salvation Army (code Quake or Japan). You can also Google “disaster relief for Japan” for the most up-to-date information.