The biggest fire in the recorded history of the area races toward your town. It is within miles of your house, and smoke is everywhere. You call up the official Incident Report web site to see if you can figure out what's going on. The site takes several minutes--an eternity online, and an eternity in a crisis--to finally load. The result? A sterile update full of numbers: crew, acreage burned, cost in dollars--and a map of the fire that is four days old. As of writing this, the web site is completely down.
Fortunately, a local community blog spotted the need for more timely, comprehensive and always-available information--and has been delivering it ever since the fire started moving our way. It provides a long list of resources, such as sites with great maps including timely thermal satellite overlays that show where the fire is really located, and up-to-the-minute reports from a variety of sources as well as questions and answers from local residents. Spread largely through word of mouth and other blogs, the site now boasts something like three thousand visitors per day in this sleepy town of eight thousand. Clearly, this is blogging at its best--uniting a community in its most compelling time of need.
While the men and women on the ground and in the air battling this blaze have been nothing short of truly heroic, the powers that be attempting to keep local residents informed online could learn a few things from a small community site that knows how to deliver updates to residents craving timely information about their beloved home town. Thanks again to the Ojai Post for seeing and filling an important need.