Nations turn to technology to bolster disaster preparedness and response

2011 was the year of the natural disaster. 

Between earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, droughts, and tornados, nearly every global region was impacted, and the $380 billion worth of worldwide damage made it the costliest year on record. These unprecedented disaster recovery challenges forced national security leaders to use innovative strategies to keep citizens safe and protect critical infrastructure. Technology helped public safety officials analyze damage, prioritize response resources, and communicate critical information to citizens. Now world leaders and technologists are using the lessons learned from 2011 to better prepare for potential natural threats, and we’re already seeing incredible progress. 

Floods, for example, can originate quickly with deadly consequences. From Pakistan to Italy, 2011 reminded us that timely flood detection and notification can be the difference between life and death. Technology is poised to transform this process through advanced detection warning systems, which leverage mapping and analytics tools to identify risk areas and help public safety officials create more comprehensive evacuation plans. Beyond predictive analytics, data analysis tools can help disaster response teams prioritize the deployment of critical resources, like the location of berms or barriers to ward off floodwaters.  

Other events can be even more difficult to prepare for - like the tsunami that struck Japan last year. During a disaster of that magnitude, technology can literally be a lifeline - enabling communications and the delivery of life-saving services. For example, Microsoft partnered with customers to create a communication portal to aid Second Harvest Japan, a national food bank. The portal allowed Second Harvest to coordinate donations, transportation, and the critical dissemination of food and supplies. Technology not only connected tsunami survivors to life-saving resources, it also connected them with their loved ones. An application called JResQ combined GPS location technology with video, photo and search tools to help survivors locate and contact family members. 

2011 served as a sobering reminder that governments, aid organizations, and citizens need real-time access to critical resources and information following a natural disaster. Emerging technologies are essential to delivering on this goal, helping national security leaders predict, identify, notify and respond. In the coming months we’ll use this blog to examine additional technologies that are changing the way countries execute disaster recovery plans. 

Have a comment or opinion on this post or a question for the author? Let me know @MicrosoftPSNS or email us at safetyanddefense@microsoft.com.

About the Author

Jennifer Steele | Senior Marketing Manager, Worldwide Public Safety and National Security Industry

Jennifer’s focus is on public safety and national security. She joined the Microsoft worldwide team from Avanade, the world’s largest Microsoft consultancy, where she led field marketing for the Americas geography. Read More