Though devastating, events like Hurricane Sandy demonstrate how technology can solve problems. When the storm was detected, many New Yorkers received text messages from a new alert system, the Commercial Mobile Alert System, that was developed in collaboration between wireless carriers and the government. Cellphones that were enabled with the technology received messages instructing citizens to stay inside and not to drive, while others were urged to evacuate. Hurricane Sandy presented the first opportunity for the alert system to be used and also spawned several other tools, The New York Times reported.

As many businesses were displaced by the storm, the Sandy Coworking Crowdmap helped businesses find free temporary workspaces. The map was not adopted everywhere in the city, perhaps because many lost cell service following the storm.

For people who need help or want donations, Need Mapper provides a way to connect them with others who want to help. While the website was popular with volunteers, only about 20 requests for help were posted, The New York Times reported. One woman who posted a request received so many calls she requested that her phone number be removed.

Fuel shortages spawned an effort between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Waze, a crowd-sourced traffic app. Users were asked to report the fuel situation in their locations, and the app contained enough reports that FEMA was able to use the data to determine where refueling trucks should be sent first.

Photo: Tanker trucks distribute fuel to residents in New York who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. Photo courtesy of Walt Jennings/FEMA