It’s a Disaster, and Tech is Here to Help
How has technology influenced our response to natural disasters? Find out more about the technology, its development, and how we are constantly pushing the limits.
2017 will go down in history as a terrible hurricane season for the U.S. The storms have been met by innovative uses of technology to deal with breakdowns in normal operating procedures.
Problem #1: How do you find an address when blocks and blocks are underwater (making it difficult to identify streets even from the air), street signs destroyed, and house numbers concealed by water or debris? The answer is increased use of GPS. Qualitest’s client list includes Waze, a popular street-driving GPS-navigation app. GPS navigation proved to be a great aid for the rescue efforts in Texas.
Problem #2: How do you coordinate rescue efforts in a Texas where the telecom infrastructure is broken? You use a free new walkie talkie app called Zello, which saw a 20-fold increase in its weekly usage in Texas. Downloads and usage does tend to spike during natural disasters. The hurricane was countered with a flood, a flood of volunteers that is, coordinated through www.houstonharveyrescue.com. This easy-to-use website helped register and match up crowdsourced rescuers with people in need of rescue. The website currently states that “Thanks to you, 7852 people have been marked SAFE!”.
Problem #3: How do you break through the triage of 911 rescue requests when you need to elevate your call’s level of importance? 14-year-old Tyler Frank (who suffered from a sickle cell crisis which clogs blood vessels, preventing proper delivery of oxygen throughout one’s body) asked Siri to call the Coast Guard for rescue. Siri figured out how to make the call. It took a few calls and a few days before Tyler Frank was rescued in time, with a temperature of 103 degrees.
Problem #4: If you are a telephone or electrical provider, how do you survey damage and determine drivable repair routes where there are downed trees and other debris to worry about? In Florida, drones were used as non-military reconnaissance towards this effort. Qualitest’s client list includes Elbit whose programs include unmanned aircraft systems..
Problem #5: How do you prevent load testing problems with donations pouring in for hurricane relief? Political or retail events are often overwhelm donation lines or websites. While phone line donations often got busy signals, I have not seen any reports of website crashes related to 2017 hurricane relief donation sites.
Problem #6: The only potential software glitch in the news seems to involve “flights out” airfare, where it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between “extreme supply and demand algorithmic analytics” and “price gouging”. Blame seems to be being placed on “greedy companies” instead of “software bugs”. We shall see if the law will dictate fare caps in the future.
Perhaps there will be more tech stories as the U.S. hurricane season continues.