Is There A Disaster Response App In Your Future?
For many people, all things important are contained on their cell phone. It holds their banking information, emails and documents and social media profiles. It’s also their camera, calendar and game center. But as mobile applications for smart phones have become more and more… well – smart – their uses have concurrently become more complex.
Mobile platforms bring a new level of efficiency to disaster response. Consider these examples, all being used right now in continuing work fight Ebola in West Africa:
–A South African company, Journey, developed the Ebola Care app to ensure international non-governmental organizations had current access to data on the outbreak. Up to the minute contact tracing, ambulance pickup status, case files for orphans, quarantine monitoring, and tracking community outreach events enabled responding organizations to work together across several countries.
–A group of volunteers searched available satellite images to help locate roads and determine which ones were open and passable so ambulances could pickup the sick. Without the app, responders would have had to use maps that did not accurately show roads, or have street names and other identifying information needed to locate Ebola victims.
–In recent years, aid organizations, such as the International Red Cross, Save the Children, and others, have used SMS cash transfers to quickly get money into the hands of those in need following a disaster, and the Ebola outbreak is no different.
While there are several companies who create mobile platforms for use in disaster preparedness and even for response in the United States – such as Crisis Go and Veoci – we still lack a unified mobile platform that relief workers, first responders, and caseworkers can easily have at their fingertips follow a disaster and use to work together. But what is truly needed is a core group of apps – two or three – that can serve as a one-stop shop for responders, case managers, and victims.
This is an area that deserves more study, encouragement and funding. In past years, foundations have supported technology projects in areas such as human rights—so why not for disaster response and recovery? Imagine the difference having a tool that allows instant field updates back to the emergency operations center and tracks needed services and cleared areas would make following a disaster.
On May 12, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy will host a webinar on technology in disasters. We hope you’ll join us for a fascinating discussion on how we can better use technology to effectively respond to disasters.