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NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
Boston Marathon explosions @ NLM’s People Finder: 04/19/2013

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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Some persons displaced during the recent Boston Marathon explosions now may be found via NLM’s People Locator®. NLM’s People Locator, which began in 2010 to ease the confusion to find lost men and women after a natural or human disaster, became available within hours after the Boston Marathon bombings occurred.

NLM’s People Locator, which can be found by typing ‘NLM People Locator’ in any Internet search engine, is an Internet-based tool that helps locate missing persons. Once at the site, simply select ‘Boston Marathon Explosions’ among the available options.

NLM’s People Locator makes it easy for hospital staff, medical professionals, relief workers, as well as friends and family to provide information such as a name and personal photos of a displaced person.

Once the latter information is sent, it is quickly accessible to professional counselors, health care workers, or friends and family. Once you enter a person’s name in the NLM People Locator’s search page, it retrieves information from a database that provides photos and other available records, often including where someone is hospitalized.

The database retrieves information about people that either are lost or found following a human or natural disaster. The database is set up to distinguish the persons who are displaced as a result of the current human or natural disaster. So, if someone dislocated in Boston happens to have the same name as someone displaced in the 2011 Joplin (MO) tornado, the database should not confuse them.

Overall, the results provide a resource that eases family reunification during an extraordinarily stressful time. 

In an article about NLM’s People Locator published in IT Pro about a year ago, its developers noted it is unfortunately easy for adults and children to lose contact with friends and family during a disaster. The developers explain lost persons often end up in evaluation shelters, hospitals, and medical facilities that have information about displaced persons, but sometimes lack a central location to share the information with others. For example, after the destruction of the World Trade Center towers in New York City on September 11, 2001, families placed hundreds of photos of lost loved ones on local bulletin boards because there was no contactable, central database to locate the missing.

NLM’s People Locator additionally shares information about displaced persons that is accessible via mobile devices. The mobile app is called ReUnite, which is available for free in the iTunes or Google Play Store.

The latter eases identification in areas with limited electricity since mobile phone service sometimes returns before widespread electrical power. In addition, as we discussed in a 2010 podcast, NLM People Locator’s developers (as well as emergency medical workers) found widespread access to mobile phones in Haiti — a developing nation.

NLM’s People Locator also can share information with similar repositories, such as ‘Google Person Finder.’

This is the ninth time NLM’s People Locator has been activated since its launch following Haiti’s earthquake. NLM’s People Locator provided assistance after the: 2012 Philippine floods, 2011 Joplin tornado, 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, and other disasters.

Moreover,’s coping with disasters health topic page provides information about an array of topics, including links to websites to manage stress and foster mental health.’s coping with disasters health topic page provides special sections of information tailored to seniors, children, and teens.’s coping with disasters health topic page also contains links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. From the coping with disasters health topic page, you can sign up to receive email updates with links to new information as it becomes available on MedlinePlus.

To find’s coping with disasters health topic page, type ‘coping with disasters’ in the search box on’s home page. Then, click on ‘coping with disasters (National Library of Medicine).’

We wish the Boston Marathon explosion victims a speedy recovery. Our heartfelt condolences to the friends and families of those who lost their lives. Let’s hope 21st century technological tools, such as NLM’s People Locator and, ease the burden to cope with the tragic toll of natural and human disasters.

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