Tag Archives: Business and Economy

What’s Open? A tool to find businesses after a crisis.

Post by: Kim Stephens

After a crisis, a simple question can be complicated: what’s open? Even after a minor snow storm some businesses alter their hours of operation and finding that information can prove frustrating for customers. I don’t often blog about private companies, but I really like the format and simplicity of the new website  called, quite appropriately, “What’s Open” by  the Vibbre company in Christchurch, New Zealand.

All business continuity plans should include ways to inform employees, suppliers, customers and local emergency services of operations after a crisis. The use of social media tools to keep these stakeholders informed is growing, and I have even seen examples of small businesses tweeting that they have supplies in stock (“We still have shovels!”)   in the lead up to a storm. Ushahidi, which was deployed after the New Zealand Earthquake and the Australian flooding disaster, is also a data aggregation and visualization platform (ad free). It can be used to inform the public of where to find supplies, and in both cases, included categories to help locate ATMs and essential items such as fresh water.  Other data, including infrastructure damage, could also be found on the map.

The “What’s Open” tool, however, is strictly focused on businesses.

The organizers of the site list their objective as a way to “help connect the people of Christchurch with their local businesses so everyone can get back to their feet.” The site is free for business and consumers to use, but they are soliciting for retailers to buy the banner ad space at the top of the home page.

The map gives users a quick view of what is open in their vicinity and provides a platform for establishments to post information, including specials and coupons, in addition to just their hours of operation.

Some people might balk at the notion of visiting a site after a crisis and seeing banner ads. However, I think if the site can be self-sustaining it might mean more valuable data is available in the immediate aftermath, or even before, an event. Just as an example, think how handy this list would be as Irene spins up the East Coast. I could envision evacuees looking for Hotels that take pets, for instance.

What are your thoughts? Should services such as this one have advertisements?