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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery
Some of the technologies listed with one capability area may apply across a number of capability areas. They have been listed with the capability area that they appear most likely to advance. Similarly, many of the technologies are interconnected. They may need to be combined to effect improvement in a specific application, such as better assessment of structural damage. Advancement in one area may be predicated on advancement in other areas: for example, improvement in energy technology to power mobile devices is required before advances in several other technology areas can be widely exploited. This report does not make a detailed assessment of these interdependencies. However, identifying and planning for them would be a major part of the development of a technology roadmap.
MORE ROBUST, INTEROPERABLE, ANDPRIORITY-SENSITIVE COMMUNICATIONS
Exploitation of cellular, wireless networking, and Internet Protocol (IP)-based technology. All of these commercially available technologies can be applied more systematically in disaster management practice to improve communications resilience by adding redundancy and standards-based interoperability. Effective use of these technologies requires enhancing operational procedures among public safety and emergency management organizations. They should seek to employ alternative communications capabilities and implement fallback communication strategies when communication resources are overloaded or impaired (e.g., text messaging in place of voice calls). The opportunities for integrating mature and maturing technologies into disaster management are abundant. The struggle is not so much the usefulness of the technologies, but the processes and structures, which limit their implementation. Box 4.1 details characteristics of cellular technology that hold potential for improving disaster management.
Redundant and resilient infrastructure. Many communications problems are caused by the destruction of communication devices or communication lines and by the loss of power. These are often the result of damage to physical structures (buildings, cell towers). Hardening the infrastructure is an obvious way to reduce failure of equipment and lines and reduce the chances of power loss. While it is not economically infeasible to harden all relevant equipment for worst-case scenarios (worst-case hurricanes and earthquakes, terrorist attacks), improvements are certainly possible.
Mobile cellular infrastructure. Cellular system capabilities could be modified and satellite communications links could be integrated to enable quickly deployable communication systems for use in disasters.