WEST LAFAYETTE - As Hurricane Florence bears down on the east coast, researchers from Purdue University are testing technology designed to help find victims of natural and man-made disasters. The university says Social Media Analytics and Reporting Toolkit, or SMART, helps first responders to monitor social media channels to find people who need help.

The platform gives first responders the ability to select key words and themes, such as flooding or medical emergencies, which are then displayed on a map as they are mentioned on social media platforms including Twitter and Instagram. It also allows users to receive customizable alerts for relevant key words during a specific time frame.

"Imagine being trapped after a hurricane makes landfall and having social media as the only form of communication to reach out for help," said David Ebert, director of Purdue's Visual Analytics for Command, Control, and Interoperability Environments. "SMART allows first responders to pick up those digital cries for help and take action."

Purdue says officials in California used SMART to find victims of wildfires earlier this year. The technology is not available to the public, but the university says first responders helping with Hurricane Florence can request a SMART account by contacting Ebert.

The research team that developed SMART is currently looking to license or sell the technology. You can learn more about SMART in the video below: