Google is always tweaking with its services, adding the odd feature here and there, and its latest jiggery-pokery with Google Maps has seen the addition of Google Public Alerts - "a platform designed to bring you relevant emergency alerts when and where you’re searching for them".
Google knows that the first thing that you're likely to do if disaster strikes, or is forecast to strike, is go online to find out just what the heck is going on.
So, as part of its Google Crisis Response project, Google Public Alerts will provide critical, local emergency information during crises. "Our goal is to surface emergency information through the online tools you use everyday, when that information is relevant and useful," explained Steve Hakusa, Google's Public Alerts engineer.
At the moment it's all very North America-centric with info pouring in from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Weather Service, and the US Geological Survey (USGS) but a quick check on the new platform does show that it is giving info on the 5.3-magnitude earthquake that recently shook Greece's southern Aegean Sea islands, as well as data on some smaller tremors around Japan and Indonesia.
For the US, there's more than earthquake info though, there are surf warnings for California, winter weather warnings for the Eastern Seaboard and Tea-Party uprising warnings for the Midwest. One of these, we may have made-up.
"We’re learning as we go and we’re working hard to continuously improve the range and relevance of the content you see," said Hakusa.
It's a good start, we think, and could prove to be a useful tool given the impending demise of the planet that's been predicted for 2012.
Check it out for yourself at google.org/publicalerts.