The importance of technology during natural disasters

A dock sits damaged near the Statue of Liberty which, remains closed to the public six weeks after Hurricane Sandy on December 13, 2012 in New York City.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the implementation of the National Emergency Technology Guard. Congress has approved the program but it has not been implemented.

During Superstorm Sandy, information and connectivity were just as important as food and sandbags for residents affected by floodwater and power outages. Volunteers with laptops and technical skills were also fixtures of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the Haiti earthquake.

The storm has renewed calls to mobilize a new U.S. National Emergency Technology Guard, a group of tech-savvy volunteers ready to help out areas affected by natural disasters. Congress approved the NETGuard 10 years ago, after the 9/11 attacks, but Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) says Congress hasn't fully implemented the program.

Wyden says Superstorm Sandy revealed how a 'NETGuard' could more effectively help those in need.

“You saw this big gap between the need and the government’s ability to get the help that was so necessary to the people,” Wyden said. “People couldn’t figure out where to turn” during Superstorm Sandy.

Congress will take up a $60 billion recovery package next week for areas affected by Superstorm Sandy.

About the author

Jeff Horwich is the interim host of Marketplace Morning Report and a sometime-Marketplace reporter.

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