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How Tech is Changing Disaster Management

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

It wasn’t long ago that disaster management professionals handled crises primarily through landlines and press conferences. Thankfully, over the past 10 years, technology has redefined global emergency management and disaster communications. One of the first national disasters to heavily rely on technology, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was Hurricane Sandy, as users sent more than 20 million Sandy-related tweets.
Since people have embraced mobile technologies, it’s increasingly important for disaster management professionals to adopt a social media strategy as well as the ability to use multiple forms of technology to communicate and connect with an increasingly networked population. What’s more, building owners and managers as well as members of the public, should take advantage of the many ways technology can help them prepare for, survive, and recover after a disaster.


Technology and Disasters:

  • The American Red Cross offers free mobile apps that put lifesaving information at the user’s fingertips. The apps give people instant access to more than 35 customizable emergency weather alerts, as well as safety tips and preparedness information for 14 different types of emergencies and disasters. The Emergency App contains an “I’m Safe” feature, which helps people use social media to let loved ones know they are okay following an emergency. These apps have been downloaded over seven million times and have been credited with saving lives in Oklahoma, Texas and other states. Other Red Cross apps include Blood Donor, Earthquakes, First Aid, Flood, Hero Care, Hurricane, Pet First Aid, Radio Cruz Roja, Swim, Tornadoes, Transfusion Practice Guidelines and Wildfires.

  • Disaster Apps. While it would be virtually impossible to list every available disaster app, here are a few noteworthy options, available on Google Play as well as the Apple App Store: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), FEMA, My Hurricane Tracker, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), QuakeFeed, Storm Distance Tracker, and WeatherCaster.
  • Facebook offers a natural disaster page, which is set up so that people can check on loved ones, get updates about the developing situation, and look for information about how to help. Disaster Response on Facebook highlights tips, news, and information on how to prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters. Facebook users who like and follow the page can stay up to date and connected with affected communities around the world. They can also donate with the “Donate Now” call-to-action button, so nonprofits can connect with people who care about their causes and encourage them to contribute.

  • Twitter has emerged as a legitimate means of emergency communication for coordinating disaster relief. A 2015 study, What to Expect When the Unexpected Happens: Social Media Communications Across Crises, focused on 26 different crisis situations (such as earthquakes, floods, bombings, derailments and wildfires) for two years. The event which obtained the most Twitter attention at the time of the study was the Boston Marathon bombings, with 157,500 tweets. What’s more, Twitter Alerts provide trusted sources with a platform to disseminate accurate information to concerned parties in real time, and for those people to offer immediate feedback about the impact and hierarchy of needs relative to the associated disaster.

  • OneEvent is an algorithm developed by a small startup in Wisconsin. For a monthly subscription fee, OneEvent detects household disasters like fires and floods up to 20 minutes before they happen. The software-based approach uses sensors to monitor things like heat and humidity in key areas of the subscriber’s home. If things start to deviate from the norm due to a leaky pipe or a hot oven, the system will catch it, let the user know, and learnfrom the situation.
  • Online Fire Life Training systems, which provide subscribers with access to information about emergency and disaster prevention, management and recovery. A leader in the field is Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training Systems. The fully-automated system allows property management companies to manage one site or an entire portfolio, with all users in the same system. Subscribers get access to training for building occupants, floor wardens, and fire safety directors. All user training and testing is recorded. Building-specific information is sent to first responders for immediate access during emergencies.

Remember that safety is important for everyone across continents. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Fire Life Training System, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

What’s The “Holistic Approach” to Disaster Recovery and Planning?

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011
Four people bringing pieces of a puzzle together

A holistic approach brings comprehensive disaster planning information to the table.

What do we mean by a “holistic” approach to disaster recovery and planning? In broad terms, it simply means the properties of a system cannot be described by its separate parts—the system as a whole influences the parts.

With disaster recovery and planning, considering a disaster as a whole system promotes broader planning and better cooperation among different groups. For example, with flood planning, engineers could have procedures in place to divert water toward a historical or shopping district area instead of a parking lot or open area capable of more safely handling overflow. If the building flood planners fail to converse with other members of the city utilities, emergency responders, neighboring properties, etc, they might make plans that would cause more damage to surrounding assets and possibly their own property. A holistic approach brings more information to the table, allowing better planned prevention as well as recovery.

An example of the need for a broader approach can be seen in the aftermath of the recent Japan earthquakes. As the production capacity of many Japanese plants is rebuilt and comes back online, segments of the Japanese economy were captured by other countries following the disaster. A holistic approach would have demanded better integration between emergency management teams and economic development individuals, who could have worked together to focus efforts on top economic priorities. This would have kept needed resources in the area following the disaster.

For some areas of the world that don’t frequently experience disasters, complacency can prevent the formation of a holistic approach. Paradoxically, a major disaster can also slow down the development of holistic methods, as individual stakeholders often feel repeated disaster occurrences are less likely, despite the fact that this is not necessarily true.

Key benefits of the holistic approach:

  • Better communication is encouraged when different agencies or groups confront disasters together. Resources or labor can be pooled together avoiding costly duplications of efforts. If disaster recovery is too fragmented, then many cases of “left hand not talking to the right” can occur.
  • Major disasters don’t discriminate. They affect large swaths of individuals and businesses. A holistic approach encourages a true community response, where actions are taken by the community for the community, with less emphasis on special interest groups or people with hidden agendas. An example of this is the rebuilding efforts in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, where groups worked together to clean debris and save houses as part of a broader longer-term affordable housing plan.
  • Holistic approaches mean a country, state, or city is more resilient to the effects of disaster and able to quickly regain former capacities.
  • The holistic approach covers mental and emotional states instead of just the physical safety of disaster victims. Such focus allows individuals to quickly return to society, providing an economic benefit to their immediate area.

For disaster recovery and prevention, a holistic method means more than just cooperation. It’s also a way to get more out of the efforts of every group and individual, which is a stark example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.