technological, organizational, and social factors and depends on a solid understanding of disaster management as well as the technologies.3

Nonetheless, IT represents an important point of leverage for enhancing disaster management.4 Briefings to the committee suggested that progress continues to be made toward ever more effective use of information technology to enhance disaster management. Better preparation and training of public safety officials and the public, improved mitigation and prevention measures, more efficient and effective response, and more rapid recovery are all possible.5 Furthermore, the public has high expectations that technology that it sees deployed ever deeper into other societal systems will be applied to improve the handling of disasters.

This chapter discusses six key IT-based capabilities that were selected by the committee because they (1) have the potential to address major problem areas in current disaster management practice and (2) represent areas where there appears to be significant potential for further advancement of the current state of the art. These capabilities span areas that could improve hazard mitigation, disaster preparedness, disaster response, and disaster recovery. They also aim to address requirements of practitioners at all levels—first responders, local or regional emergency managers, and national emergency managers. Improving these capabilities is applicable to addressing natural, accidental, and terrorist-induced disasters, though some capabilities may be more specific to one type.

Table 2.1 lists these capabilities together with examples of near-term, mid-term, and long-term opportunities for technology development that were identified by the committee. Some of these technology areas are already the focus of significant federal research and development investment. For example, self-managing and repairing networks are the focus of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) research program. Some technologies are the focus of considerable research and development investment from the private sector, such as wireless mesh


J.-L. Wybo and H. Lonka, “Emergency Management and the Information Society: How to Improve the Synergy?” International Journal of Emergency Management 1(2):183-190, 2003.


Robin Stephenson and Peter S. Anderson, “Disasters and the Information Technology Revolution,” Disasters 21(4):305-334, December 1997. This paper reviews the application of IT to disaster management from 1970 through the middle 1990s. It identifies a considerable body of literature showing the evolution of the use of IT in disaster management from its beginnings to becoming “an indispensable component of disaster operations worldwide.”


John Pine, “Research Needs to Support the Emergency Manager of the Future,” Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management 1(1), Article 3, 2004. Originally presented at the National Academies’ conference “The Emergency Manager of the Future: A Disasters Roundtable,” June 13, 2003.

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