University Develops App to Help First Responders during Disasters

A new online platform created at Purdue University aims to make it easier for first responders to find victims during a natural or man-mad disaster.

The platform, called the Social Media Analytics and Reporting Toolkit allows first responders to monitor social media posts to find people who need help.

Users monitor social media using an algorithm that captures the use of keywords like “flood” or “emergency.” Results are displayed on a map with information about the geographic area where the terms are being used.

So far, the tool has been used to help emergency personnel better monitor areas where hurricanes make landfall, and help them get to people caught in weather-related disasters quicker.


In an interview with WLFI, David Ebert a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue said the idea was borne out of local project with Tippecanoe county law enforcement as well as officials in Indianapolis.

“We wanted to try and see what kind of information they were interested in getting out of it, how they wanted the system to work and what they wanted to see,” Ebert told WLFI.

The app has already seen some practical use outside of weather events. It was used recently during Purdue football games, and once helped someone during a medical event.

“They were actually able to see a tweet of someone thinking that someone had a heat stroke,” said Ebert said in the interview. “They immediately sent a first responder who was able to treat the person before they became very ill.”

Ebert said the goal now is to make the tool available to agencies around the country.


Article Written by Joan Goodchild | View all articles by Joan Goodchild