A Purdue University professor named Timothy Filley, recently made national news. National Public Radio aired a story describing a new course that Professor Filley has created which has allowed him, his students, and collaborators from VACCINE to help emergency workers respond to storm damage much faster than normal.
The class is testing out an app that allows students to track natural disasters, like tornados, with the help of Twitter and Google Earth. By typing in key words like “tornado,” “storm,” and “hail,” along with the general location where the disaster is taking place, the students can map out all of the twitter feed in that area that could be describing the storm. The students can then read those tweets and determine if they are describing the dangerous weather, or something else.
“You can overlay the actual storm tracks and the people who have been responding to the storm,” Filley says. “It actually maps out very nicely when people are talking about damage.”
The invention of this app helps give these researchers a clearer idea of what is happening in real time. This is another way to help forecasters at the National Weather Service, a group partnering with Filley and his class, send out early warnings of incoming storms or disasters to people in potentially affected areas.
Filley states that the information gathered could help discover how different communities react to disasters in their area. He also says that a main goal of this program is to help these communities prepare and recover from storms.