Dr. Pamela McCauley is a nationally recognized speaker, award-winning educator and full Professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems at the University of Central Florida where she leads the Human Factors in Disaster Management Research Team. After the tragic tornados in Oklahoma, I wrote about the specific functions of hand held mobile devices such as non-slip grip and high-visibility screens that can be life-saving during a disaster situation. These tornadoes occurred not long after my Fulbright Specialist Project in New Zealand where I worked with the Joint Centre for Disaster Research at Massey University on the development of a communications model for representing flow of information in an Emergency Operations Center and evaluative research on the use of hand-held communications tools to support key personnel in emergency management.
This past week, during an interview on the Peggy Smedley Show, I was particularly keen to be able to discuss hand held device functionality in emergencies and emergency management use of technology , in addition to how individual citizens can use mobile technology, social media, and apps to be prepared in emergency disaster situations.
Mobile Disaster Technology
How has mobile technology changed the way the emergency management community responds to disasters?
- Mobile technology allows officials to communicate with citizens more quickly and continually i.e Wireless Emergency Alerts.
- Mobile technology allows individual citizens to communicate with the government or first responders, both directly and through social media, allowing for significantly more information to be shared during emergency situations.
- Through mobile technology, individuals can communicate their status with family and friends, as well as warn other individuals that there may be danger approaching.
- Mobile technology has been critical in supporting “information seeking” in crisis events, facilitating public action, and serving as a source of functional and emotional support.
i. In the aftermath of the August-September 2005 Katrina and Rita hurricanes, strangers from across the country worked to unite separated families, and used blogs and forums to organize provision of relief. ii. Studies of survivors after Hurricane Katrina showed that text messaging on mobile phones and post-evacuation Internet access were crucial sources of information. Moreover, evacuees reconnected with their communities through online neighborhood-based forums that were developed and maintained by the local New Orleans newspaper. How can the community or individual citizens use technology to support their preparation efforts?
- Download disaster preparedness apps on their mobile devices (see recommendations below).
- Create Social Media “Lists” that will provide the information flow TO the individual in an emergency situation, and allow you to quickly communicate your status to personal contacts or emergency responders, if necessary.
Disaster Preparedness Apps
FEMA. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) app contains preparedness information for different types of disasters, an interactive checklist for emergency kits, a section to plan emergency meeting locations, information on how to stay safe and recover after a disaster and a map with FEMA Disaster Recovery Center locations and shelters. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone and iPad) Pocket First Aid & CPR. This app from the American Heart Association provides quick, concise and clear first aid and CPR instructions from a user’s smartphone. The most recent update features 34 videos and 46 high-resolution illustrations, reorganized content to make it easier to find help in an emergency, an improved user experience and new search functionality. (Android and iPhone)
Social Media Use during Disaster
Using Facebook, Twitter, or other Social Media sources, create a List or Follower Group:
- Local Emergency Management List
- Put all accounts on this list that are related to sharing official information for their agency that affect the public during possible emergencies or disasters.
- Emergency management, all public safety related organizations, state police, local police, sheriff, fire & rescue, public health agencies, city and county accounts, department of transportation, power company, red cross, disaster related volunteer groups and anyone that you would want to hear from and communicate with in a potential emergency or disaster
Local Media List
- Add all local media accounts such as local radio station accounts, newspapers, any television stations that cover news in your area (even if they are not right in your city), local news blogs, etc…
- Create a personal contact list
- By doing this you can alert everyone in your personal life with one message
Life Saving Mobile Technology
Disaster Prep and Learning through Personal Sharing
Please share your stories of survival through natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, or man-made disasters like bombings or mass shootings, so that I might highlight your personal story and intertwine it with survival methods when speaking to institutions and community groups on surviving “The Unexpected Storm.” – Pamela McCauley