3/12/2011 07:49:00 AM(Cross-posted from the Google.org Blog)
I was in the middle of writing code when the Google Japan office, on the 26th floor of Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, started shaking slowly. The rocking gradually increased, and I looked out the window to see the surrounding buildings all swaying ominously. Although alerts from the building urged us to evacuate via the emergency stairs, I couldn't help but stay and search for information about the earthquake’s epicenter and scale. Amidst a series of aftershocks rocking our office, a small group of us in Tokyo and several other Google offices started gathering information about the earthquake to create the Crisis Response information page.
As someone who experienced the Kobe earthquake 16 years ago when I was at university, I cannot forget the immediate desire for information. There was no way to find out where people's family and friends were, if transportation would be available to get us home, and most importantly, whether we would be able to find shelter.
This experience helped me remember that during a crisis, information about shelters can become increasingly muddled. Together with our Google Crisis Response team, we decided to organize existing public information from local governments about the concerned areas. Because of the very high volume of web traffic yesterday, this proved difficult to access. Collaborating with the Google Maps engineering team in Tokyo, we rapidly put together a page of information on Google Maps for our Crisis Response page.
And thanks to our colleagues in California and around the globe, within one hour of the earthquake we launched Google Person Finder, a tool to help locate missing people, in Japanese, Chinese and English. We published sites in Japanese and English with maps, news updates, videos and resources. We also posted tsunami alerts on the Google homepage for appropriate domains to make sure as many people as possible saw the warning. And in addition to these tools we've made available, we are donating $250,000 to organizations in Japan who are working on relief and recovery efforts.
Our hearts go out to those who have been affected by the tragedy, and we thank the citizens, first responders and organizations working hard to keep everyone safe.