Haiti: Texting, social Web connecting survivors with help

By Anne Collier

Struggling earthquake survivors in Haiti can now text for help. “Countless volunteers” receiving the messages, the US State Department, the Pentagon, aid organizations, and Haiti’s leading cellphone carrier make up an emergency contact network for Haitians seeking aid, the New York Times reports. The story leads with the experience of Coast Guard volunteer and Chicago tech firm owner Ryan Bank, who told the Times he’s received more than 18,000 messages. Some volunteers monitor Facebook and Twitter postings for information indicating where supplies are needed. Messages through the network have “helped identify a tent city that the American military and relief workers were previously unaware of.” To get the word out, the mobile carrier in Haiti sent “the distress code number – 4636 – to every cellphone on the Haitian network. Word of the program also went out on local Haitian radio stations.” Text messaging was still possible even with damage done from fallen cell towers.

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