An app called MERCI has become a critical tool in the wake of Tropical Storm Iselle
"We really didn't realize when we went into that area why it was taking so long, and it's because it's so massive. It's the size of Kauai, just that area," said Ian Kitajima of Oceanit.
But by then, with boots on the ground and smart technology in hand, a group from Oceanit had joined state, county and National Guard members to document the damage in remote areas. Not only with their eyes, but their iPhones, iPads armed with an app called MERCI.
"This disaster required all of us to work together with or without technology," said Hawaii County Assistant Housing Administrator Susan Akiyama.
"So imagine you're seeing your property on a map, then on top of that is our information about the damage assessments. On top of that you could put census information, weather information. You could layer this thing and give you an amazing picture of the damage that occurred," said Kitajima.
"We could really streamline the process if one agency is doing it. Collecting all this data and then the information can be shared so other agencies who are trying to come in and partner, they don't have to start from scratch," said Akiyama.
Each pin is loaded with info -- pictures deep inside the damage. Geomapping, already on Google Earth, later to be matched with tax key maps and weather patterns.
Then, paired with financial reports for insurance coverage and FEMA funding. Kitajima says now they're calling on residents to help themselves and help the state, and not just with homes.
"Document downed telephone poles, trees, whatever is damaged in your neighborhood," said Kitajima. "The public that lived there was really the first responders. They were the ones who were reporting back through social media that there really was big damage."
The National Disaster Preparedness Training Center on Oahu is looking at taking the real-time information from Iselle, and how it passed over the state, and overlaying damage assessments.
According to their data, Kitajima says it turns out it was the "right shoulder" of the storm that did all that damage to Puna.