Here’s how tech companies helped out during Hurricanes Irma and Harvey
When Final Fantasy online gamers help raise money for the biggest natural disaster relief efforts of the year, you know people have the right idea and there's hope for humanity!
Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey proved to be the precipice for a lot of tech companies, as several of them are coming together to provide relief and help victims in the aftermath of the two monster storms.
The Tech industry played a major part in financial as well as practical aid efforts in Florida, Texas, and the Caribbean with some companies donating money to help rebuild areas, and others assisting responders and civilian rescue workers.
Seeing people in the tech world help out people after such a rough couple of weeks of devastating natural disasters is a heartwarming picture. These are some of the ways tech companies have helped out before, during, and after the devastating hurricanes:
Monetary donations for Hurricane Irma & Harvey
One of the most important (and common) ways of support that came from the tech community was in the form of monetary donations. This will certainly prove most useful as Hurricane Harvey alone is estimated to have caused billions in damages. According to Mark Zuckerberg, between numerous user-led fundraisers and the $1 million that Facebook itself matched to the funds raised, Facebook raised over $10 million for Harvey relief efforts.
- Dell’s Michael Dell pledged to donate close to $36 million
- Apple donated $10 million, and Tim Cook himself mentioned the disasters during the 2017 iPhone reveal event.
- Google matched $2 million in public donations, making it $1 million for each hurricane.
- Microsoft donated $100,000.
Several other companies made donations to a variety of charities, including United Way, The Red Cross, and the Salvation Army.
— Jane Meseck (@JaneMeseck) August 28, 2017
Gamers did not fall behind in getting involved with this monumental task: a special marathon called Harvey Relief Done Quick which was organized by the charity speed running organization Games Done Quick raised $227,000 for the Houston Food Bank. Following Hurricane Irma, Final Fantasy XIV players raised $21,000 for the Direct Relief charity.
Helping fleeing residents
While a lot of companies were able to only help remotely or with money, some were able to assist in a much more direct way. For instance, Google handled marking road closures in real time after Hurricane Irma, thus ensuring all those trying to reach safety or emergency services wouldn’t be led into a dangerous area by their Navigation and Maps app.
Tesla extended the battery life of all its cars in Florida, giving them a chance to reportedly drive 30 – 40 miles further than they normally would have been able to and get out of the path of Hurricane Irma. Though the safety and security of this temporary upgrade have been questioned by many as a major risk in such a situation, there’s a chance it helped some Tesla owners get the extra push they needed to get out of state.
Airbnb created a page for “Open Homes,” which lets homeowners signup to host evacuees for free. The website has had these disaster response tools since Hurricane Sandy and is now listing free homes offered for hurricane-displaced people in Florida, Texas, and the Caribbean as until September 28.
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) September 8, 2017
While not exactly a tech company, Jetblue joined in by capping prices on all outgoing flights from Florida so that those who wanted to get out of the state before Irma hit could do that without selling off their homes.
We’re closely watching the path of Hurricane Irma & are offering fee waivers for affected cities. Check for updates: https://t.co/UY3n3QpFX4
— JetBlue Airways (@JetBlue) September 5, 2017
Apps for disaster relief
Some apps proved to be quite helpful in helping the hurricane victims, offering real-time weather info, links to access emergency services and locations of helpful resources nearby.
The app GasBuddy, which helps users find gas stations and their prices nearby, has been recommended by Florida Governor Rick Scott to help residents find fuel for their cars. GasBuddy rolled out an update to help Floridians find gas stations that still had fuel left and the app shot to the top of the App Store charts soon after.
— GasBuddy (@GasBuddy) August 30, 2017
An app that unexpectedly rose in popularity during Hurricane Harvey was a walkie-talkie app called Zello. Users hold a button to talk to each other live and in real-time within groups of up to 2,000 members thus making it crucial for large-scale coordination. It caught on with the people during the hurricanes and especially used by a civilian group called the Cajun Navy.
Google put together a collection of apps on its Play Store to prep for Irma, which included a variety of apps that would prove to be helpful to evacuating people. A Google spokesperson said, “We hope this serves as a good digital survival kit over the coming days.”
The tech community coming together and pitching in during a major disaster is sure to help countless to find help and support. This is one of a handful of stories in the world where you can look at the deeds of a group and find it heartwarming.