Home   |   Prophecies   |   About   |   Blessings   |   Links   |   Archive

Improving Disaster Response: Two Ideas

I was writing before about how technology could be shared globally between countries working towards the common end of disaster prevention and relief. I will work to write a more comprehensive blog along those lines, but at this point, I would like to begin to outline two ways that responses to disasters can be improved drastically.

Disaster Relief Drills

First and foremost, I feel that if organizations like FEMA were to simply hold more large scale disaster relief drills, it would go a long way towards raising readiness for both anticipated as well as unexpected disaster scenarios. Currently, FEMA does hold a large gammit of exercises to boost preparedness, and it seems to be paying off with dealing with the aftermath of Sandy. However, one can never discount the benefits of staging more drills, especially ones that deal with extremely large-scale disasters (which to my knowledge are not currently held).

Most effective, in my opinion, would be to empower the president or the director of FEMA to randomly declare a test scenario on any given day of the year, one that would require the full mobilization of FEMA assets for a certain type of disaster (ex. hurricane, earthquake/tsunami, blizzard). The relief test would operate just like a real disaster response, and would require the agency to fully deploy assets in the area covered by the scenario. By holding such a large-scale exercise, policy makers and experts within the framework of FEMA would have a chance to test the capabilities of all levels of the organization's functional realms of operation, potentially revealing any weaknesses in critical infrastructure or information management/decision making.

The careful collection of statistics related to the time it takes for each unit within the agency to accomplish the tasks necessary for effective disaster response would allow for a comprehensive analysis by those within the agency as well as the related (Congressional and cabinet-level) committees responsible for working with the agency to help provide it with needed resources.

Having suggested what I have previously, I can fully appreciate the biggest counter argument that one would likely make against holding such a drill: the likely costs. A drill of that size would certainly be expensive, as it would call for the full activation of the staff and backup staff within the agency, use up some money within budgets for things like fuel and electricity, and potentially be disruptive. However, it can also be argued that the benefits of holding such a large scale drill from time-to-time would outbalance the costs, as any subsequent real response would take into account any inefficiencies revealed in the drill and thus would manifest themselves in a faster as well as less-potentially-wasteful way. In the event of severe budget limitations, such an exercise could be scaled down to involve the information management assets within the agency, with only partial mobilization of the assets and personnel normally required on the ground to give a standard of comparison with regards to the time required for the successful deployment of necessary resources and services to an affected area.

A Task Force for the Integration of Helpful Technologies

A second idea for enhancing how FEMA or the emergency managment apparatus of any country could respond to a disaster would be for any such agency to have on hand a task force or in-house think tank for more quickly and smoothly integrating any new technologies that might provide advantages in a disaster relief scenario. I guess that such a team or department probably already exists, but my reason for suggesting this is my belief that emphasizing this further would see immediate benefits.

One example of a technological area that could stand greater consideration for its potential usefulness to FEMA is UAV technology. The use of UAVs for helping pinpoint areas where help is needed in a disaster is not a new idea in itself, but what the currently suggested approach for their use lacks is the kind of scope that central networking would provide.

Envision if you will a collection of FEMA-only UAV hangars that would, at the onset of a disaster, spring into motion, launching their units to supply round-the-clock imagery of a disaster area. The imagery itself would be integrated into an area-wide, GPS-based and cross-referenced server map that would allow disaster relief mission planners the ability to prioritize deployment zones for personnel and equipment, districting the areas from hardest hit to least affected. This would allow for personnel to give recommendations for resource deployment depending on the current availability as well as the level of need described on the information "tag" for a given area.

The existence of such a system would greatly lower the reaction time of FEMA in responding to specific events and situations on the ground, and with the further integration of new information technologies going into the future, the potential for further improvement would be almost assured.

~Back to Prophecies~