I think one of the most important and critical applications of ICT is for disaster management and mitigation.  With the proper infrastructure, monitoring, and implementation, ICT for Disasters can save countless lives and speed up the rebuilding and recovering process.  As a case study, I am going to use our location – New Orleans, Louisiana – where we face the very real threat of hurricanes.

One of the most important steps anyone can take to mitigate the effects of disasters is preparation and preparedness.  Check out Get A Game Plan from the Louisiana Governor’s office – it has plans and essential info to get you prepared for the next storm.  You can also download the app on your iPhone!  Public campaigns through TV ads, Internet, Texts, etc can deliver helpful information and reminders.

Early warning systems (EWS) are key in making sure that people know when disasters are coming and what precautions to take.  EWS can be traditional (alarms, radio, TV, telephone) or modern (SMS, Internet, Apps).  With NOLA Ready, New Orleans residents can sign up to receive notifications via text, email, or phone call for evacuation information, weather advisories, infrastructure issues (water advisories, power outages), and traffic.  Have an iPhone?  With the WDSU Hurricane Central App, you can track tropical storms and hurricanes with satellite maps, up-to-date notifications, preparation checklists, and planning maps.

During a disaster, apps on your phone and other ICT options can keep you informed and safe.  They can also help connect you to loved ones.  Did you know?  During Hurricane Katrina, phone service was limited or unavailable, but SMS often still worked!  This is because SMS works on a different band, and can be sent and received even when service is down or congested.  Another plus is that you can text multiple people at once, which will save you battery power.

In the aftermath of disasters, online databases (check out Sahana) can help with missing persons and connecting people to NGOs and resources.  Satellite images can help identity damage and find those in need of help.

-Many of these devices are not used during the night hours and often powered off, which reduces effectiveness
-ICT usually requires a power source, which can be cut off during an emergency!  Back up batteries or generators are suggested.
-Not everyone has access to ICT!
-There must be coordination between governments, NGOs, and the public
-There must be proper and adequate infrastructure, that is somewhat standardized compatible with these technologies
-People have to use it!  Having ICTs in place does no good if people do not take advantage!

Do you know of any tools and tips that I missed?

2 responses to “ICT4D(isasters)

  • vcahen

    If you look at my Blog Post on the Japan Earthquake and ICTs as a use to prevent and help relief aid you can see that the author agrees with you in almost every aspect that although they are very crucial to helping in times of disasters they are also an extremely difficult tool to rely on for access and connection is very limited.

  • dolson2110

    I wanted to comment on your “back up batteries are suggested”-There has been a great increase of extended battery parts and back up batteries that can provide many extra hours of charge without the need for an outlet. Maybe this can be the basis for humanitarian and relief efforts to set up tents that offer these batteries either as a service or for purchase because often electricity is out post disaster leaving many without access to their phone device once the battery has depleted. Although I recognize this will not work in many underdeveloped and developing countries where mobile phones aren’t as ubiquitous, however, in countries that have higher usage of mobile phones this might be of important use! Just a consideration.

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