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A survivor registry is a list of survivors of a disaster. This assists families and acquaintances in re-establishing contact, after they have been separated by the disruption caused by the disaster.
There are several databases of survivors of the Nazi genocide of Jewish people during World War II. One of these is the Benjamin and Vladka Meed Registry of Holocaust Survivors which is now part of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The Red Cross established a register of survivors of the SS Noronic disaster in 1949. Survivors of the Hurricane Katrina disaster also registered with the Red Cross to help notify their friends and family.
World Trade Center
Following the destruction of the World Trade Center, many telephone lines and transmission facilities were disrupted. Computer programmer and science fiction writer William Shunn was in Queens nearby. At about 11:30 a.m. on September 11, in response to a friend's emailed suggestion that he maintain and circulate a list of acquaintances he had heard from thus far, Shunn posted the names of people he knew were okay on his personal web site and began sending the URL to other friends. Keeping the list up-to-date proved difficult, as more emails flooded in than he could handle. He quickly developed a simple database and form submission system so that visitors to the site could post their own names to the list. This automated system debuted at around 1:00 p.m. that afternoon.
Meanwhile, a crew of programmers at the University of California, Berkeley with vastly superior resources were working on a similar concept. Their survivor registry went online at about 3:00 p.m. Eastern time. While Shunn's site foundered and eventually crashed under the heavy load of submissions, the Berkeley site ran on a huge computer cluster, and for the next several days stood out as the most robust and accurate of the many survivor registries that followed.
One problem that plagued the survivor registries was that of inaccurate information. So many entries listed actual victims as being okay that Berkeley eventually implemented a system that used cross-checks to gauge the accuracy of the information received.
The grassroots generation of survivor registries led many people to wonder why the Federal government did not have such a system already in place. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has since discussed plans for official survivor registries in the future.
- Bhaskar Sarkar (2010), Documentary testimonies: global archives of suffering, pp. 37–38, ISBN 978-0-415-99664-8
- "Noronic", The Milwaukee Journal, Sep 17, 1949
- "Families and Hurricane Response", The sociology of Katrina, 2007, p. 79, ISBN 978-0-7425-5930-1
- Stuart Allan (2006), "Covering the Crisis: September 11", Online news: journalism and the Internet, pp. 56–57, ISBN 978-0-335-22121-9
- Charles Cooper (September 13, 2001), Online help spawns hope for victims, CNET News