With the U.S. hurricane season about to kick off, Google announced today that it’s expanding the weather-related information that will appear in Google search results when web users search for information about particular storms or tornadoes. Now the search giant will also show searchers critical information like maps of your location and proximity to the storm in question, the storm’s forecasted track and severity via NOAA, as well as safety instructions.
The instructions, which will come from FEMA and ready.gov, will go a step further than just providing generalized information about how to prepare, Google notes, as they will also be customized to the individual searcher based on their current location. The location data will be used to estimate the storm’s intensity when it reaches you, as well as its arrival time, in order to make the instructions more personalized to each searcher.
For example, if the storm is still several days away, you might be shown recommendations about how to prepare an emergency kit. However, if the storm is just a few hours away, the recommendations may instead suggest that you start charging your phone in anticipation of a power outage. And if the storm is really close by, the information will be of a more urgent nature – like telling you how to avoid injury from fast-moving water or flying debris, the company says.
Google has been focused, for a long time, on using its resources to aid web users following natural disasters. After Hurricane Katrina, for example, Googlers prepared satellite imagery of the affected areas, and built searchable databases that allowed people to check on the safety of their loved ones, the company notes. Those sorts of efforts later became more formalized as a part of the Google Crisis Response Team, a group which now offers a variety of tools aimed at collecting and sharing emergency information with web users, including both first responders and affected disaster victims.
These efforts are not limited to the U.S., either, as Google has now worked on tools to provide information to those affected by a range of disasters worldwide, including floods, cyclones, wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, landslides, tsunamis and even man-made disasters like the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
In addition to providing this crisis-related information via Google Search results, the company has also leveraged its other properties like Google Now on Android and Google Maps to disseminate its Public Alerts. Currently, Google’s Public Alerts push out weather and public safety information provided by partners in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Colombia, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines and India.
The new storm-related forecasts, tracking and safety information is rolling out starting now in the U.S.