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Science & Technology

How Technology Helped Rescuers

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This past week in Texas, we saw everyday citizens driving their boats to rescue folks who were stranded by Hurricane Harvey, a bit chaotic but a surprisingly organized chaos - complete with volunteer dispatchers.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Yeah. For a look at how they did it, we spoke with Melissa Adair.

MELISSA WYNN ADAIR: Somebody might have a need, and it would come in through either of our channels, through Facebook or through our Zello channel.

KELLY: And Melissa is one of the people behind the Texas Navy 2017 Facebook page and Zello channel. Now, if you're wondering, what's Zello...

ADAIR: The Zello app converts your smartphone into a walkie-talkie. Because it's on the Internet, you can talk to anybody.

MARTIN: So a person would reach out for help. And Melissa says teams of volunteers were monitoring those requests, and then they would enter them into Google spreadsheets.

ADAIR: Anybody that had Internet access, no matter where they were in the world, they were able to communicate and see what each other was doing.

KELLY: And from there, dispatchers used Zello to share this information with people out in the boats, people like Sean Smith (ph).

SEAN SMITH: You could share your location with the Texas Navy. So if you were in the area and you marked you're on the water, they would contact you directly and say, hey, you need to go here.

MARTIN: And they went, and they helped. And then they did it again and again. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.