Editor's note: This post comes from guest blogger Colin Reilly, Director of Geographic Information Systems at the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. Read how NYC is improving crisis management by integrating Google Maps Engine, the core of the Google Maps for Business solution.

At the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, we bring mission-critical technologies to city agencies, making life for our residents easier and safer. This includes creating apps and online services that New Yorkers can depend on, such as our newly launched Hurricane Zone Finder.

In the wake of Superstorm Hurricane Sandy, we realized the importance of reliable technology in a natural disaster. During the storm, record levels of traffic to our online evacuation map slowed performance and blocked updates. We knew that we needed to find the right technology to keep our maps running during the worst of storms.

Now that we’ve implemented Google Maps Engine, we can ensure that New Yorkers can get the information they need, when they need it most, no matter how hard a storm rages or how many people access the system. Powered by Google’s reliable cloud infrastructure, our new Hurricane Zone Finder not only guides residents to the nearest evacuation area, but can also handle thousands of visitors to the site.

The revamped site highlights color-coded evacuation zones on a Google Map, helping people easily determine if they need to evacuate and find out where they should go. Mobile and online visitors can check the Hurricane Zone Finder on nearly any device and get directions – driving, walking, or transit – to the closest evacuation center. All of this information is provided in the Google Maps interface, letting users interact with familiar technology.

Google Maps Engine made it easy for us to develop and publish our maps. Included with the new tool are the three new hurricane evacuation zones developed by the New York City Office of Emergency Management; in total, six zones now cover nearly three million residents. The Google Maps Engine API lets us quickly process this new information, and provide a map with boundaries that are updated and precise.

Hurricane Sandy taught us some valuable lessons about informing New Yorkers in advance of a major storm. While online maps can get people the information they need, they are only part of the solution. With Google Maps Engine, we can provide visitors with a tool that is not only informative but reliable. And as long as our residents are informed and kept up to date, we’re doing our job.