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Welcome to Michael's blog. Michael Andrew, (aka Michael The Maven) is a freelance producer, photography instructor, tech innovator, and when needed, disaster aid specialist. Disclaimer: Michael is a participant in Bhphoto & Amazon affiliate programs that provides an advertising commission if you purchase through links on this website.


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03.14.11         michael's insights  

Why Michael is asking for Japanese Speaking Internet Data Miners


When a major disaster strikes any area- there are a series of events that become predictable because they have always happened at other disasters.

One of these events is the loss of cell phone communication either by damage to towers or overload of signals. This leads to the inability to connect a call out, however text messages sometimes get through, or are delayed a day or two.

As cell phone communications are restored, many of these text messages start coming through, sometimes even days later. Terrifying to think about.

We saw this is Haiti- countless families and friends were reporting friends texting from the rubble, and sadly there was nothing they could do about it.

Another event you can count on is that concerned locals will set up websites with all kinds of information, some of it is helpful, some not. We expect to see these websites to appear in Japanese and we also expect there to be text messages coming from trapped victims. I would bet money on it, if I was a gambling man.

SAR Teams (Search and Rescue Teams) rely heavily on trained animals and equipment to find victims. They are very good at what they do and work around the clock for 7-9 days after the event to do it.

If a victim is savvy enough to include their GPS coordinates, they would be easy for anyone to find, this however doesn't happen often, though it could in Japan.

On the other hand, if we just have a cell phone number of a victim from where they sent the message- we can triangulate the location with the help of the cell phone company.

Essentially what I am saying is, if a victim has text messaged someone asking for help and we have their number, we can find them. Which also means that the Internet can be used to locate victims, just as a dog could - all we need is that specific number. This is what we are asking the data miners to find.

While this probably sounds pretty obvious and something they would "already be doing" - I would bet against it because there are too many broken links, and SAR teams are much too busy working large specific areas to call a cell phone company to triangulate a possible position for something outside their area- assuming someone could get the info to them.

I have learned that there are holes in the system, and it's usually where there are fewer victims involved. This is what I want to focus on, smaller groups of people who have fallen through the cracks, like the orphanages in Haiti.

Once we have their positions I can get the info to SAR teams who can help- at least, that is the plan. Much easier to convince someone with a GPS position than a random phone number. If we had thought of this in Haiti, and were there earlier, it absolutely would have worked- no question about it.

What we are asking is for Japanese-English speakers to scour the internet, twitter etc for these "local set up" websites for info about victims who are text messaging from the rubble.

A second thing we can do, is set up a website (in both English and Japanese) where friends and family can specifically report if they have received these text messages or phone calls. (this is very different than the people finder Google has set up).

If just one of these numbers panned out...it would be worth it.

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