It seems that disasters are happening at an alarming rate or technology has increased the level of awareness about these incidences. Most people never knew the extent of devastation caused by WW1; neither were the disasters of the WW2 reported in real time. Today, however, the advancement in telecommunication technology has increased the level of awareness of disaster and resultantly the response rate.
For instance, the BBC report by Edwin Lane in 2014 showed how a researcher, Dr. Paul Gardner, developed a mesh network. This invention allowed mobile phone users to share information among themselves in a situation where the network is down due to a natural disaster like an earthquake; the Haiti earthquake disasters in 2010 influenced Dr. Paul.
The significance of the mesh network as stated by its creators is to allow communication among victims. When earthquake struck, roadblock are usually mounted as the infrastructures are reduced to debris; in due time the criminally minded citizens would realize that government are no more in control of certain area; crime would definitely increase; victims needed to stay together, and the best way is by sending short messages, voice messages and even files via mesh network.
Trilogy Emergency Relief Application (Tera)
Another fantastic technology developed as a result of a disaster in Haiti was the Trilogy Emergency Relief Application (Tera). Tera is now being used by Red Cross in its humanitarian missions across the world. With this technology, aid workers can navigate a disaster-hit region from a monitor, by identifying all the mobile phones being used in that area.
The project gives the victims of the disaster the avenue to send messages to aid agencies, notifying them where they are and what their pressing needs are.
There are however other similar technologies that were recently developed to harvest the huge volumes of information generated in the immediate aftermath of a sudden-onset disaster, like a war or earthquake.
Many people wouldn’t have been moved to help if they haven’t read the article on these issues. Trevor Nace (2017), for instance, shared a story on how “During Hurricane Harvey flooding, the Cajun Army came in mass to the help of their neighboring Texans. Many of them used social media to locate pleas for rescue and to communicate with stranded individuals.”
Likewise, after Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012 Federal Emergency Management Agency in America reported that in two weeks over 20 million tweets that were related to the disaster were posted. When Nepal earthquake happened in 2015, about 7.5 million Facebook users checked in via Safety Check, an app on Facebook platform.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Knowing that during disaster information are shared sparingly, and all that people are concerned with is how to get rescuers across to the region that is hit. Just like Dr Paul’s mesh network was invented because of the need to restore the communications before the bad guys realize “the good people aren’t in control anymore”, VPN could secure connection so that the bad guys wouldn’t take advantage of that to steal vital information from people’s devices. Imagine you are in foreign countries, and you want to get local news or read any articles about disaster for instance, but your host country has banned people from accessing contents from your country; VPN can help you bypass the restriction and give you access to read the articles or the news related to the disasters. It equally allows you to get information across. Either way, you are never stranded in disaster because restriction has been put on the flow of information.
Perhaps you wonder how VPN work? Well, it starts with the VPN client app on your device; this software encrypts whatever information you intend to send across the internet. The encrypted data then passes through the internet service provider or the public Wi-Fi and from there to the VPN server before eventually reaching the online destination. At the destination, the data is already decrypted but the location and the information about your device are unknown to whoever is watching your activities either with the intent of stealing your vital data, blocking or diverting your information from the intended recipients.
Solar-powered lanterns Attached with Charger
The importance of information sharing during a natural disaster is always taken seriously by humanitarian workers and different government agencies supporting them. For instance, when the dreadful act of militancy struck northern Iraq, the British RAF planes were reported dropping more than 1000 solar-powered lanterns, the first time of its kind, for the refugees of the war. The lantern is attached with a charger for all the stranded victims.
NASA Finder (Heartbeat Detector)
The Nepal earthquake in 2015 led to the emergence of this device. It is a suitcase-size gadget that detects the heartbeat of human that are either 20 ft of solid concrete or 30ft of rubbles below.
ALIRT (3D rendering of terrain)
ALIRT is one of those technologies very vital in managing the aftermath of a disaster. It works by producing high-resolution images of the affected region or place. With this, the administrator can identify changes in population in displaced person camp and infer other vital information like helicopter landing zone, the condition of the road which in turn helps the humanitarian workers to dispatch relief materials effectively.