Emergency Management: How Technology Can Impact the Way We Prepare for Disasters

Emergency Management: How Technology Can Impact the Way We Prepare for Disasters
By H. Davis

Emergency Management: How Technology Can Impact the Way We Prepare for DisastersTechnology is starting to dominate many aspects of the emergency planning profession. This is particularly true during a disaster response. Since the dawn of man, there have been countless natural disasters responsible for taking lives and causing chaos throughout cities.

Fortunately, today we have a large number of technology companies — like Microsoft — that offer software and/or services for larger scale disasters.

As we become more dependent on technology, occasional wake-up calls give us opportunities to reflect on whether that technology makes us more or less secure against the strong forces of mother nature. There are a lot of cities that have been devastated by disasters over the past two decades: floods and heavy rainfalls in places like Pakistan, Eastern Europe, and parts of Africa; hurricanes and wildfires occurring throughout the United States; volcanic eruptions in Iceland; and earthquakes in Chile, New Zealand, and in Haiti, which killed more than 300,000 people. All of these natural disaster has caused suffering and economic damage to multiple civilians. This means that more action is needed to help reduce the impacts of such natural disasters.

So, how is technology being used to advance the missions of the emergency management community?

 According to Eastern Kentucky University, there have been 336 disasters per year on average. This has resulted in around 72,205 people losing their lives each year. The role of technology in emergency management is to connect, inform and ultimately save the lives of those impacted by disasters directly. Technology restores connectivity to the impacted areas so that government officials can communicate with citizens and people can search for their loved ones. Technology will also enable responders to coordinate rescue missions and work systematically from the minute they arrive in a disaster zone and help businesses recover so that communities can begin the rebuilding process. Lastly, once the destruction’s over, technology can help us analyze, track and study natural disasters so that we can always learn and develop better solutions — while also preparing to save more lives the next time one strikes.

How does the cloud impact emergency preparedness?

 If you manage data, it’s probably not the bump in the night that frightens you. It is the blinking red light, or the sign of no light that stops you from sleeping. Technology is, in many ways, its own life force. The same can be said for the cloud. In fact, the cloud has helped transform the way homeowners and business owners prepare for destruction. A disaster, for instance, can knock out or overload nearby infractures, making access to important data and communication systems nearly impossible. The cloud, however, has been able to work around this challenge by keeping data stored and accessible far from the disaster zone. For instance, if a company like the American Red Cross helps other nonprofit and local agencies through cloud use, it allows them to share logistics quickly and broadcast information from one organization to another. This helps inform those outside of the disaster zone of ways they can help during a time of need.

How are companies like Microsoft working on being proactive vs. reactive when it comes to natural disasters?

 For individuals who make prepping a way of life, the way we respond after a natural disaster is vital, whether it’s within the first few minutes or the months of rebuilding that follows. The Microsoft Disaster Response team, however, emphasizes the best disaster response begins before a disaster happens. In other words, as a part of disaster preparedness, software development companies are always learning from past events and experiences — building on solutions that worked, and growing their network of partnerships so that they can give responders what they need to be successful when conducting a search, or responding to a community that’s been hit.

What role will data play in the future in regards to emergencies and disaster preparedness?

 As information continues to be generated and gathered, there is greater opportunity for research, analysis, and visionary ways that scientist can use to build upon key lessons learned. The more data we collect, the more we can extract details. This gives researchers the ability to act before the next disaster strikes.

What does the future look like for information management during a disaster response?

 With the progressive, real-time open sharing of data during disasters, we can expect to see a shift and rewiring in disaster response. Today, for example, we have smartphones, situation reports that come 24 hours later, and most importantly, a variety of data sources we can rely on when making critical decisions. So, what does the future have in store for technology and disaster preparedness? The true future of emergency management lies at the state level, and their ability to support and aid in the growth of local and county emergency management.

When it comes to preparing for unexpected disaster, innovations are often times the greatest defense residents can rely on. Fortunately, engineers and researchers continue to create useful technology to help aid victims, which in return, increases our chances of survival.

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Thanks for the read! Did I miss anything important? What might be some other ways technology can help with disaster preparedness and management? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Davis loves being active and finds any reason to go outside. If you can’t catch him reading his favorite books, you might be able to find him playing football, or spending time with his family. Follow him on Twitter at @Davis241. Thanks!
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