ment. Many of the report’s recommendations are aimed at the diverse set of federal, state, and local agencies and other organizations (referred to here as disaster management organizations) with responsibility for disaster management activities. Several recommendations indicate what might be done at the federal level to foster IT innovation that would enhance disaster management efforts, but it was beyond the scope of this study to recommend exactly where responsibility for implementing these recommendations should be placed within the federal government. This report is not intended as a comprehensive look at the complex, highly multidisciplinary topic of disaster management, nor does it explicitly address tradeoffs between investments in IT and other capabilities for disaster management or make recommendations about levels of funding for IT (or indeed other) disaster management activities.
The challenge of disaster management is reducing the harm disasters cause to society, the economy, and the lives of individuals and communities. That task requires disaster managers to reduce uncertainty, to calculate and compare costs and benefits, and to manage resources, often on a much larger scale and at a much faster pace than are supported by methods and means for solving ordinary problems. IT provides capabilities that can help people grasp the dynamic realities of a disaster more clearly and help them formulate better decisions more quickly. And IT can help keep better track of the myriad details involved in all phases of disaster management.
The committee concluded that IT has as-yet-unrealized potential to improve how communities, the nation, and the global community handle disasters. Briefings to the committee suggested that some progress is being made in using IT to enhance disaster management. Presentations made at its June 2005 workshop, additional briefings to the committee, and reports on responses to recent disasters indicated, however, that disaster management organizations have not fully exploited many of today’s technology opportunities. This situation stands in contrast to the considerable success enjoyed by some sectors such as financial services and transportation in adopting new IT technologies routinely and aggressively.
This report describes both short- and long-term opportunities to enhance responsiveness and increase resilience by applying IT to disaster management. As in other sectors, successful use of IT involves multiple factors—making smarter use of existing technologies, creating opportunities to develop and adopt new technologies, and evolving organiza-