Biloxi-based Internet news portal GulfCoastNews.com (GCN) will be providing information contained in its Katrina Survivor-Connector database to the American Red Cross.
The American Red Cross operates an evacuee location system at Katrinasafe.org and is working with other Katrina database sponsors to collect and consolidate data. According to Tom Corl, director of the International Family Tracing Services for the Red Cross, the data is being collected at the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California at San Diego. He says Katrinasafe.org has been developed in collaboration with Microsoft.
GCN’s database was started the day after the hurricane slammed into the Mississippi Gulf Coast and over the days since the hurricane has grown to one of the largest and most well-used sources for people trying to find displaced survivors of the hurricane.
The GCN Katrina Survivor-Connector database has nearly 73,000 names of individuals to be searched and was the first to be available on the Internet. The information in the database is entered by users of the database from their own computers around the country and at shelter locations throughout the region. The data includes displaced and missing residents from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, New Orleans, and other areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.
The GCN Survivor-Connector Database was designed to empower the users who can amend the records as they learn more about the people they are looking for. This is unlike most other databases of Katrina survivors.
The GCN Katrina Survivor-Connector database was created to help accommodate the huge number of entries from people looking for relatives on the Mississippi Coast that overwhelmed GCN’s existing message board. The simple, scrolling message board was not designed for the traffic or by the type of information people were using it for, but at the time, it was the only source available by people looking for their friends and relatives.
Shortly after the GCN database went online, it was soon found by friends and family members from other areas such as New Orleans and its use skyrocketed. The GCN Message Board is still active at this time. The GCN Katrina Survivor-Connector Database was engineered by Ken Burton, the brother of GCN's owner Keith Burton. Ken Burton lives in Colorado Springs and formerly worked at the Pacific Disaster Center in Maui, Hawaii as that agency's director of software development.
The GCN Survivor-Connector database will remain active even as the data transfer to the Red Cross is underway. Red Cross officials recommended that the GCN database remain online as people are still using it and are comfortable with its operation. GCN is considering expanding the database to accommodate the outcome of other hurricanes such as Hurricane Rita.