The other day I posted about the Frontline Medic system which uses cheap cell phones to build an effective field medical network. America.gov has an interesting article about how text messaging was used as a crucial lifeline in Haiti. A dedicated help number was set up, which people in trouble could text to request help.
It seems that Haiti did not already have a 911-type service set up, so this number, 4636, was set up in just one day, in order to allow people to quickly request help.
In combination with Ushahidi, volunteers located all over the world translated thousands of text messages (written in French or Creole), determined the location of the cell phone user forwarded the most dire requests to the Red Cross, U.S. Coast Guard, and other relief agencies.
Read the whole article, but my take away was: cell phones really are powerful. It's important to make sure your loved ones have a cell phone on them (with credit!) at all times.