When the Boston bombings happened, the world was once again left in shock. People who were sadly caught up in the blasts were in need of help. With kind hearts and the use of modern technology, people came together to provide support, shelter and more to those in need. We take a look at how technology helped mobilise people in the aftermath of the bombings.

Google Person Finder to the rescue

Put in place to help people during times of disaster and well known for being used in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the Google Person Finder was used once again to help people find their loved ones. It helped people post out for those they wanted to find who were involved in the Marathon either as participants or those cheering the crowds on, and people could report information on their whereabouts in the hope of being reconnected with loved ones. It tracked 5500 records.

It also signposted several helpful contact details such as the Boston police hotline for witnesses and the Mayor’s hotline for the family of victims.

This was particularly useful considering many mobile networks were jammed and mobile phone calls in or out became almost impossible.

Person finder

Emergency Services take to Twitter

Twitter was used in a couple of dynamic ways. The authorities and emergency services were aware that the majority of people now use social media as their first port of call in times of disaster. Therefore they all took to twitter to offer advice, guidance and constant updates.

The Boston Police Department used the social networking site to inform followers that officers were working to stabilize the situation:

 police tweets

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Association tweeted to advise concerned people to try texting friends and family members in Boston because text messages use less bandwidth than calling.

And Tufts Medical Center used Twitter to provide updates on its patient count and to inform potential patients that anyone needing care what they should do and where they should go.

Twitter space

As you would expect there were a lot of people who were unable to reach their offices in order to work.

Realising this, people who had space to spare took to twitter to offer out office space to those who needed to continue to work but could not.  In some cases many still cannot get to where they normally work due to road and building closures in the surrounding area of the bombings.

An example of this is The Cambridge Innovation Centre who said:

If people in the Back Bay are affected by this, particularly startups who can’t get to work because roads are closed or buildings are closed, we wanted to open up our doors for free… We’ll continue to help out as long as we can, as long as we have space, and as long as people need help.”

Helping to prevent as little disruption as possible and showing that the city could still keep going no matter what.

Disaster Lab, a group that provides communication relief in times of disaster called for people to unlock their wifi for public use:

‘If you live or run a business in #Boston near bombsite please open your wifi for people to use. Communications are important!’

Sofa surfing for good

Boston.com set up a Google Drive document where people in and around the surrounding area of Boston giving a helping hand by listing offers of a room for the night to those who were caught up in the tragedy whether they be a spectator or runner.  Hundreds took to the page offering out sleeping area, food and car rides where needed.

Here are just a few examples of people opening up their homes to others in need:

 room list

Online Fundraising in the face of crisis

Tugg and Fundraising.com worked together to raise money with 100% of donations going straight to the Red Cross. They initially started out with a $50,000 target but after quickly exceeding this in a matter of hours they soon changed the target number to $100,000. Showing how effective online fundraising can be in times of crisis.


Level Up is a provider of a mobile payments app based in Boston, they created a Boston Marathon section which allowed a user to donate any money they save through digital coupons and vouchers to the cause.

The CEO of Level Up, Set Priebatsch will match donations up to the amount of $26,200 signifying the 26.2 mile length of the marathon. The Boston Athletic Association who organised the event will decide where the money should be used.

Tracking runners, tracking whereabouts


During the marathon people were able to use a runner tracking tool online to see how far individuals had reached and the times they were running at. Concerned loved ones then continued to use the tracking device by a way of seeing whereabouts in relation to the bombings their friends or family members were to see if they were safe.

Donating pizza via Reddit

When Californian woman Liz Kosearas heard about the tragedy, she thought up a creative way to use technology to help people on the other side of the country. She posted on Reddit that she’d happily buy pizzas for people who were putting up stranded runners and spectators. Before long, over 100 other Redditors from around the world made similar offers and Massachusetts’ Anytime Pizza came on board to arrange the delivery of the pizzas, salads and drinks to those who’d helped out in the crisis.

If you have any other examples of how digital technology can be useful or would like some advice how you could help out digitally in times of crisis then feel free to contact us at hello@reasondigital.com

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