Emerging Technologies That Will Impact Disaster Preparedness

There are a lot of cities that have been devastated by disasters: earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, and New Zealand; floods and heavy rainfalls in places like Pakistan, Eastern Europe, and other parts of Africa; hurricanes, and wildfires throughout the United States; and volcanic eruptions in Iceland. All of these natural disasters have caused suffering and economic damage to multiple civilians. This means that more action is needed to help minimize the impacts of such natural disasters.

Luckily, new tools and technological devices have been created to help predict disasters that include: wildfires, floods, and earthquakes. That being said, over the years, the use of technology has emerged as the key component to developing a sustainable resistant infrastructure and action planning. In fact, technology plays a vital role in terms of disaster management with satellite-based Geographic Information System (GIS) and computer simulations that provide disaster maps, vulnerability assessment, and disaster response preparedness and/or planning.

This means that even if you lose grid power and connection to the web, as long as you’re able to determine where the disaster is located, you’ll be able to plan your evacuation.

So, how does technology help with disaster preparedness?

  • iDAWG

During a worst-case scenario, communication between emergency responders can be both necessary and difficult. Although there’s been a lot of research done on interoperable communication, it’s still tough for responders to keep the lines of communication open during a disaster. This is why Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies has been working on a device that will maintain communication between different devices without solely relying on cell towers or internet networks.

Natural disasters like earthquakes strike without warning. This usually results in a sudden loss of power that can then create a small window of opportunity for theft of data or data loss. Fortunately, iDAWG — Intelligence Augmented Wireless Gateway — works with a new class of software, called Edgeware.

How does it work?

This technological feature works by connecting devices and information to help with machine-to-machine communication. The process is similar to ad-hoc networking in which local networks build spontaneously as devices connect to one another. The iDAWG will also be able to work hand-and-hand with FEMA’s Integrated Public Alerts and Warning System.

  • Remote Sensing Preparedness

The analysis of satellite images has helped provide useful information during all phases of the crisis management cycle: supporting urban risk reduction measures, rapid identification of damage after a disaster, or planning recovery and reconstruction initiatives. This piece of information is valuable for both communities and local urban management authorities and international organizations that support these development projects. The analysis conducted by satellites also helps to quantify damage following a natural disaster. For example, a few days after the Haiti earthquakes in 2010, satellites were able to produce a preliminary rapid damage assessment based on the reports that were taken prior to the earthquake.

  • Intellistreets Lighting

Imagine if a lamppost could detect floodwaters and even display an evacuation route in order to help civilians and travelers safely leave an area. That would make things so much easier, right? That’s just what researchers are trying to do with intellistreets, an emerging piece of technology that outfits streetlight poles with wireless technology. The lighting is designed to provide emergency alerting, homeland security and public safety functions, as well as energy conservation.

These are all topics that have been labeled as “complex,” since no two families prioritize the same thing, especially during an emergency. In the case of energy conservation, one family, for example, might be concerned about the climate change, while another just wants to keep bills low and save money. Whatever the case may be, when families (especially children) understand the underlying concept of an emergency, they’re more likely to care about their family’s well-being.

“How do intellistreets receive data?” you ask.

It’s accessed through a web-based system, where operators and first responders can acquire alerts whenever an environmental factor triggers the system. Since the technology is built into each streetlight, the government representative can also take action from a remote location to ensure that pedestrians are aware of the situation. For areas that have been flooded before or have water main issues, a streetlight with the built-in intelligence would activate a warning light once the water reached a certain depth, like the street curb. Other streetlights nearby would begin to flash, warning motorist to slow down immediately.

When it comes to preparing for unavoidable disasters, innovations are often the greatest defense residents can rely on. Thankfully, engineers continue to create useful technology to aid victims of catastrophes which, in return, increases everyone’s chances of survival.


Thanks for the read! Did I miss anything? What are some other technological devices that can help citizens be more prepared during a disaster?


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