People Finder System Being Created for Major Disasters

Drawing on the Haiti earthquake experience, the National Library of Medicine estimates more than 50,000 family members might use the system twice during a disaster.

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) is working out an interactive Lost People Finder System to be used by emergency responders and medical personnel during large-scale emergencies like this year's Haiti earthquake. A request for comments published Monday in the Federal Register explained the system would be a voluntary collector of information about people who are missing and who are found (recovered) during a disaster. The system would be activated only during disasters or emergencies in which U.S. government agencies are called to contribute to relief efforts and would operate until those efforts cease.

"Information on recovered individuals would be gathered voluntarily from medical and relief personnel who either use a specialized application developed by NLM for the iPhone or submit information to NLM by e-mail via computer or cell phone," according to the notice. Using a photo, name (if available), age category, gender, status (healthy, injured), and location supplied by relatives, the system would help in those seeking family members, friends, and other loved ones.

The Google Person Finder system was deployed during the Haiti earthquake. Using that disaster as a model, NLM estimate some 500 emergency responders might use the proposed finder system during a relief effort, and each one might submit information on 100 people. Each submission should take no more than five minutes. Again based on the Haiti experience (the Google Person Finder system contained information on 50,000 people after two weeks of operation), the agency estimates more than 50,000 family members might use the system twice during a disaster.

For more information on the proposal, contact NLM's David Sharlip at 301-402-9680 or sharlipd@mail.nih.gov.

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