Technology and Disaster Relief
By Matt Brennan
From 2005 to 2014, more than 700,000 people died as a result of a disaster. The American Red Cross responded to more than 242 disasters in the United States alone in the year of 2017. This resulted in more relief provided than the previous four years combined.
From earthquakes, to floods, to hurricanes, billions of dollars in damage occur annually. Technology and data now play a key role in the response to these disasters, helping emergency response, and the challenges faced in the aftermath. These efforts help save lives.
Below are some of the ways that technology helps.
The Role of Big Data
Technology helps to collect personal and medical data, the geolocation of roads, survivor tracking and more. With the proper analyzation and use of this data, officials are more easily able to conduct rescues, provide aid, and kickstart the process of recovery.
Crisis mapping software allows users to apply geotagged reports from email, SMS, and tweets on top of digital maps. This can help emergency personnel develop a real-time picture of the situation on the ground. Social media can help complete this picture, giving both rescuers and the general public a clear idea of how and where to focus rescue efforts. Partnerships between non-profit organizations and social media companies make data analyzation and communication between all stakeholders easier in an emergency.
Big data plays a key role in making sure vital resources such as food and water are adequately distributed, reaching larger audiences faster.
Drones and Disaster Relief
Dozens of drones were released in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston. These drones can spot people in need of immediate help, without putting a rescue team in harm’s way. They can often operate faster in these averse situations than people would. Large enough drones can also provide rescue ropes and life jackets in areas that rescuers may not be able to easily access.
Drones can also be used to assess the levels of devastation and predict how long certain areas may be impacted.
Smart Phone Applications
Nearly everyone has a smart phone, making it one of the most effective tools for enhancing rescue and recovery efforts. The Apple health application can provide needed medical data for medical personnel. There is also an official FEMA application that can aid them in their rescue and recovery efforts.
Social media also helps in amazing ways. In addition to alerting the proper authorities to your situation, it can also help in reuniting loved ones, or locating lost pets.
We often like to give weathermen grief, but the truth is forecasting and weather modeling has come a long way, even over recent decades. Hurricanes can be predicted days, sometimes more than a week in advance. Advancements in weather modeling, GIS data, and other predictive technologies can give local authorities the head start they need in proper planning.
Technology as an Aid
While it does seem like the number and severity of natural disasters keeps rising, we have more tools than ever to minimize their impact. Technology can provide tremendous aid, helping both the rescue and recovery.