I have spoken at length about using GIS in disaster relief. Here is another article that discusses the use of GPS and GIS in disaster relief for the recent tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. The analysis here used all of my favorite things: crowd sourcing, big data, GPS, and the internet.
I like the idea of doing some serious analysis since I do not get to do a lot. I have also said in the blog and among friends and colleagues that GIS really shines when it is helping people. Whether it is getting medicine to children or disaster relief, GIS has a way of taking a daunting task and putting an easy to understand response in the hands of the people that can actually do some good.
The one thing that really stood out to me about this article was the use of geotagged Tweets. It is such a simple idea. You have the people that need the help effectively provide important location based needs in real time. Analysts can come in and run a few simple interpolations and figure out what is available and who needs it first. It will be interesting to see how this expands. The number of geotagged Tweets is a small sample of the total Tweets that occur world wide so having more people using Twitter during disaster clean up could really change how responses go. I think that relief agencies like FEMA get a bad opinion when things are really bad, but they do not always have the data to make real decisions. Using crowd sourced big data sets like this could change all of that.