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5 Ways Digital Technologies Have Transformed Disaster Recovery and Response

In the last few years, Americans have witnessed an escalating number of catastrophic events. Hurricanes, mass-shootings, wildfires, waves of flash floods, and tornados, have damaged or destroyed homes and caused hardship for scores of citizens.

In each disaster, technology has played an essential role in management and relief efforts—saving countless lives. Media often covers the role social media plays in connecting catastrophe victims with help and support services. Not as widely discussed, but just as significant, is the support provided by contemporary technologies.

The cloud has transformed disaster relief and management.
The cloud and cloud-native technologies have been instrumental in transforming the preparation and management of disaster response. Disasters often render local infrastructures ineffective, making data access and communication nearly impossible. Because data is stored and accessed far from the disaster area, cloud-based technologies help circumvent what was once a significant challenge. Additionally, the scalable properties of the cloud, and its ability to meet precise requirements surrounding network traffic and volume, help secure local agencies against issues related to network downtime.

Collaboration technologies have transformed communication in times of catastrophe.
Collaboration tools enable secure communication across physical and organizational boundaries, keeping emergency managers organized in times of disaster. With WebEx Teams from Cisco, for example, managers can enact team-specific rooms where documents can be shared, voice or video meetings can be held, and communication occurs in real-time. Collaboration keeps every member of the emergency operations team prepared and informed, radically improving the speed and efficiency of relief during disasters.  This free-flow of information across organizations and groups has had a significant impact in times of catastrophe, helping to connect loved ones, move people to safety and even get clean water, food, and supplies to where it is needed most.

With today’s technology, disaster prediction has taken an enormous leap forward.
Today’s technology has given us the tools to collect, analyze and study data in ways unheard of just a decade ago. With this information, researchers can address persistent problems, create enhanced solutions, predict future catastrophes, and save more lives. As more significant volumes of data are produced and collected during a disaster, researchers are given a more substantial opportunity to examine and learn from lessons and experiences. Findings gathered from big data analytics provide emergency response teams greater ability to move proactively before the next disaster.

Drones are essential for disaster recovery and emergency response.
Drones have become a significant component of the disaster response toolkit. Drones extend the reach of teams working to restore power and accelerate the fulfillment of insurance claims to areas impacted by catastrophe. Protection and speed of recovery are two of the most significant benefits to recovery teams—issues that would have taken days or weeks to address, with drones, can be solved in hours or minutes.

Social networks are playing an ever more critical role in times of disaster.
Social networking applications are playing an essential role during catastrophic events. During hurricane Harvey, Texans took to social networking applications to document issues and find help. Scores of people used platforms like Facebook and Snapchat to draw attention to areas desperate for assistance, letting loved ones know they were safe. The growth of cloud-based applications has allowed civilians and emergency teams to join together, getting people the resources and assistance they need faster than ever before, thereby saving thousands of lives.

Rapid technological innovations have transformed the velocity of emergency operations and recovery before, during and after the initial event. And, as we continue to study and improve disaster response through data, response times accelerate, communications are optimized, and emergency operations become more streamlined.

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