The Web: a civic engagement & emergency preparedness tool


Jan 4th, 2011 | by Alley Pezanoski-Browne | 0 Comments

Sometimes it feels like the web is only good for watching crazy viral videos. But the truth is that it can be, and often is, harnessed as a useful civic engagement tool.

Cory Booker, the Mayor of Newark, used Twitter to let citizens know about cleanup efforts after a major blizzard recently hit the city. As the blog Preparedness Today says, “Twitter is a deceptively simple, yet powerful social networking based communications tool”, and officials and individuals are using it to communicate during natural disasters.

In the relief efforts after the disastrous earthquake in Haiti, social media was used to mobilize efforts. The American Red Cross lead a SMS campaign to collect donations, while the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services provides a widget that you can put on your website that links to resources for Haiti. Check out the Government Gadget Gallery for other widgets from the U.S. government.

The city of San Francisco has open sourced all of the data they’ve collected and made it available for programmers to create useful web applications based on the information. is on Twitter. The Center For Disease Control (CDC) has both widgets and a YouTube channel. And the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also has a YouTube page.

City Sourced is a mobile civic engagement tool that allows citizens to report potholes, graffiti, etc. Similarly, Bay Area-based Block Chalk allows you to “use your mobile phone to leave messages in your neighborhood and see what your neighbors are saying. It’s like a bulletin board in your pocket.”

Do you have civic engagement or emergency preparedness tech tools like these in your community?

Courtesy of HookedUp