HOUSTON - Hurricanes Harvey and Irma aren't the only signs of the times. Tech companies are making a mark, changing the way we respond to natural disasters.
Facebook announced a new crisis response section to its site. It's actually an upgrade to the safety check tab that was introduced recently. Facebook will also show users content from public postings to update them during major events.
Austin-based Zello became the app of choice for first responders. It's a web based walkie-talkie app that helped rescue crews find folks when cell signals were down. Zello has more than 100 million registered users adding 6 million in just one week after Harvey hit. But don't tell your mom. She'll never leave you alone.
Release the drones!!! Seems like an army of flying machines got in on the relief effort. This is an important test for drones because it's the first hurricane to hit the U.S. since the Federal Aviation Administration relaxed its rules. Allowing insurance companies to fly drones to survey property damage. But don't take a shower when they come by. Nobody wants to see that.
Airbnb, Uber and Lyft activated disaster response programs. The house sharing website encouraged hosts to list homes for free and invite evacuees to seek shelter through the peer-to-peer platform. While Uber and Lyft both offered free rides to and from shelters, many relied on user-produced video streams from Snapchat overplayed on a map and others relied on Reddit, which has multiple forums devoted to storm coverage.
At least 350,000 folks downloaded Gasbuddy just a day before Irma made landfall. Users informed other users, in real time, which stations had no gas, no power or limited fuel options.
And finally, Tesla owner Elon Musk 'magically' unlocked the full battery life of the 2016 Model X and Model S cars. So drivers who needed to evacuate could go farther on a single charge. It's an upgrade that normally could cost thousands of dollars. We like to think it was more of an act of generosity than a show of power. Either way, thanks Bud!