Google has rolled out Public Alerts, a system for notifying the public about emergencies that will be integrated into Google Maps.
The company announced Wednesday that it is integrating feeds from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Weather Service, and the US Geological Survey (USGS) into Google Maps.
Providing a glimpse of how the program will work, Google offered the hypothetical example of Tornado Warning in Houston - Galveston. If you searched “Tornado houston,” you’d see a Google Maps page offering links to local tornado-related businesses. However, if there were a flood warning, Google would state there was a “Tornado Warning in Houston - Galveston” and offer a “more info” link, which would lead to a page like this offering more details on the progress of the Tornado.
Google is also aggregating all its public alerts on www.google.org/publicalerts. The idea, according to Google, is to provide the public with better information to make decisions during a crisis. So far, however, the company doesn’t appear to be integrating dynamic data from its Google+ social network (or other social networks, like Twitter and Facebook), which might yield even more relevant data.
This isn’t the first time Google has attempted to use its dominance in search to aid public safety. In 2008, the company introduced Google Flu Trends, which analyzes search data to show where the flu is spreading. Last year, Google also rolled out Google Dengue Trends, which performs a similar service related to Dengue Fever.
Google also has a Crisis Response Team that focuses on providing information to the public during emergencies.
What do you think? Is Google offering a needed public service, or is this just an attempt to garner good pr? Let us know in the comments.