i3 - January/February 2018 - 51

THE RESCUE
How the newest tech innovations are making
a big global impact -By Natalie Hope McDonald
fter Hurricane Harvey hit Texas last year, the costliest natural
disaster in the world next to the Japanese tsunami, tech played an
important role in rescuing people and surveying the destruction. After as
much as 40 inches of rain drenched the state, causing catastrophic flooding and displacing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, first
responders and cleanup crews had their work cut out for them.
One of the biggest challenges during Harvey was ensuring that areas were
safe to re-enter, sometimes even before the floodwaters began to recede.
Satellite technology and the newest apps came to the post-Harvey cleanup
rescue, analyzing what dangers lurked beneath the waters and whether
toxic spills could pose threats to humans and animals. In some of the hardest hit cities like Houston, SkyTruth, a U.S.-based environmental service
organization, became a lifeline.
SkyTruth uses tools like Spill Tracker to monitor the environment during
and after natural disasters. After Harvey, for example, Spill Tracker helped
people accurately report on hazardous pollution caused by oil and waste in
the hurricane-ravaged region. By leveraging GPS mapping technology via
desktops or mobile apps, citizens, local governments and responders alike
could use the tracker to communicate updates about flooding and pollution,
making rescue and cleanup safer.
"We use satellite imagery and remote sensing technology to analyze and
help the public understand the environmental scope of natural disasters
such as hurricanes," explains Tracey Foster, a spokesperson for SkyTruth.
"Driven by the belief that better transparency leads to better management
and better outcomes," says Foster, "we envision a world where anyone, anywhere can use this information to protect the places they care about."
After the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast in 2010, the largest accidental oil
spill in U.S. history, SkyTruth accurately surveyed the damage using an early
version of the mapping technology. SkyTruth estimated the spill to be 25
times worse than reported, forcing the company to acknowledge the scope
of the massive environmental cleanup that would follow.
While these trackers leverage big data and satellite tech to survey land
and water - the development of maps, software and tools is serving some
of the most complex public and research needs. "By sharing our findings,
like stunning images and robust, science-based data, with the public for
free," says Foster, "we move policymakers, governments and corporations
toward more responsible behavior."

A

LEFT:
Flooded
homes near
Lake Houston
following
Hurricane
Harvey in
August 2017.
BELOW:
Spill Tracker
is used to
report hazardous pollution
in hurricaneravaged
regions.

C TA . t e c h / i 3

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018

51



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of i3 - January/February 2018

Contents
i3 - January/February 2018 - Cover1
i3 - January/February 2018 - Cover2
i3 - January/February 2018 - Contents
i3 - January/February 2018 - 2
i3 - January/February 2018 - 3
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i3 - January/February 2018 - Cover3
i3 - January/February 2018 - Cover4
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