“Just Google it.” Hundreds of millions of people put this suggestion to use every day. What’s more is that many people are not even aware that search engines this powerful were not always available. How else would they find the answer to that simple question that has been bothering them all day with just the click of the mouse or a tap on a phone?

Surprisingly, this suggestion to “just Google it” is becoming even more applicable than we ever imagined. What if that lingering question on your mind involved locating a missing family member? Following natural disasters, it is common for family members and friends to be separated and without means of communication for long periods of time. However, Google has identified this need and extended their services yet again.

The 2010 Haitian earthquake was the reason for Person Finder’s creation; following the disaster, there were many people setting up websites to try to assist in locating loved ones because means of traditional communication were unavailable. However, there were too many sites running at once, all with different pieces of information. Therefore, the success of actually finding someone was not very likely. This is when Google became interested.

After consultation with the U.S. Department of State, Google created the Person Finder in 36 hours. Person Finder began to include data from CNN and the New York Times as well. Also a website, the Person Finder allows users to provide information about and search for missing people. If, following a natural disaster, victims can somehow get to the internet to post this kind of information, the Person Finder has proved to be an extremely effective tool to reunite both family and friends.Search Engine OptimizationSince the original Haitian creation just over a year ago, Google has created several different Person Finders—one each for the earthquakes in Chile and China, and, as of last week, one for the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

So in all seriousness, if you know of anyone who is searching for or has information regarding loved ones in the case of a natural disaster: just Google it.

Jamie Bates