Technology in Disaster Preparedness

Introduction

Disasters, both natural and anthropogenic, may result in significant damages to the infrastructure, economic losses, injuries, casualties, and the displacement of people. While many disasters, such as earthquakes or tornadoes, cannot be prevented, it is possible to mitigate their adverse impact by thorough preparation for them. As a rule, disaster preparedness includes such measures as vulnerability assessment, warning system development, public education and training, drills, and developing systems of data collection and information sharing. The process of enhancing disaster preparedness has been facilitated and improved by modern technological advances. This paper aims at reviewing the recent literature on the use of technology in disaster preparedness. The search in the Google Scholar database revealed five recent articles that describe the technology used for disaster preparedness.

Main body

The first article is a systematic review of information technology used in disaster risk management and the factors influencing the adoption of IT. Meechang et al. (2020) reviewed 103 articles published between 2011 and 2018 and met their inclusion criteria. Their findings revealed nine IT platforms used for disaster preparedness: mass media, social media, mobile phones, mobile applications, websites and web applications, games, smart devices, computer software, and computer hardware. Most of these IT platforms are used for informing the public. Websites and web applications are also used for disaster monitoring, forecasting, and simulation. Games are used as a tool for educating the public about how to respond to disasters. Computer software, such as Geographic Information System (GIS), appeared to be the most widely used technology platform, allowing for disaster simulation, prediction, monitoring, and evacuation modeling. Further, Meechang et al. (2020) analyzed the factors that influenced the adoption of the reviewed technologies. The most influential factors were perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, information accessibility, social influence, and disaster knowledge. Thus, raising people’s awareness and making IT available for them improves the acceptability of technology for disaster preparedness.

Khan (2019) discussed the role of science and technology in preparing to respond to various disasters. The researcher argued that science and technology allowed people to understand the mechanism of natural forces that lead to disasters and, thus, be able to predict them and mitigate their impact. Khan (2019) provided a list of sciences that take part in disaster management, which included chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, social science, earth science, and health science. Further, the author discussed some examples of disasters, their impact, and approaches to disaster management. Disaster management often involves the use of technology, such as GIS, remote sensing technology, web services, warning and forecasting systems, and seismological observations. These technologies are used for information sharing, alerting the public, making predictions, and monitoring disasters. Khan (2019) also described a case of how the government of Bangladesh used technology for preparing to respond to cyclone disasters. Bangladesh has the Storm Warning Center that detects the formation of cyclones and sends early warnings to inform other agencies. These warnings are then spread within communities by a volunteer network. Such use of technology helped Bangladesh to conduct timely and safe evacuations.

Another article presented a case study of different natural disasters that occurred in Palu, Indonesia. Yulianto et al. (2020) interviewed 30 city residents, including survivors of tsunami, earthquake, and liquefaction, telecommunication officers, and volunteers, to find out whether the technology was properly used for emergency preparedness. The findings indicated that there was no alarm either prior to or during the disaster. People got information about the disaster from social media, namely, WhatsApp, when the tsunami and the earthquake had already occurred. Because of the infrastructure damage, people could not charge their phones, and there was no signal. Volunteers responding to the disaster communicated using a two-way radio system and satellite telephones. When the telecommunication operator provided mobile Base transceiver stations (BTS) with free access to the Wi-Fi service, people were able to communicate via the Internet. This article provided an example of the inadequate use of technology in disaster management. Because of a lack of an early warning system, people could not be evacuated before the disaster occurred. Yet, the results showed that two-way radio systems, satellite telephones, and mobile BTS might be appropriate ways of communication during emergencies.

While the previous articles observed a range of technologies to be used for disaster preparedness, Alsamhi et al. (2018) discussed one particular technology, the Tethered Balloon. In the introduction, the authors argued that the future of communication technology for disaster preparedness was in space technology. According to Alsamhi et al. (2018), space technology is more reliable than other existing wireless technology, such as 2G, 3G, or 4G, because it is not as easily disrupted by natural and anthropogenic disasters. The Tethered Balloon is a space technology, which is “a flying balloon incorporating lifting of any communication technology equipment to cover the disaster area” (Alsamhi et al., 2018, p. 223). This technology can be used for disaster preparedness if it carries telecommunication equipment to disseminate information or remote sensing or the GPS to track approaching hazards, assess vulnerabilities, and coordinate rescue teams. The Tethered Balloon can also lift up cameras, radio antennas, radio-relay equipment, and other applications necessary for communicating during a disaster. According to Alsamhi et al. (2018), this technology can be of great value for disaster management, but the possibility of its use depends on weather conditions.

The last article to be reviewed discusses the use of virtual reality (VR) technology in disaster medicine. Duan et al. (2019) described VR technology as a computer simulation system capable of simulating real-world situations. The authors briefly reviewed the history of VR technology and argued that its application in disaster medicine could be valuable for disaster preparedness. According to Duan et al. (2019), the use of VR technology can be used for teaching medical students and rescue personnel to solve problems in various disasters. This way of training is better than traditional education with pictures and lectures because it let students and professionals get practical experience, which is impossible to get otherwise outside of the disaster. Another way of using VR technology is post-disaster psychotherapy that helps patients cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. While the use of VR technology as a means of psychotherapy is related to the recovery phase of disaster management, the application of this technology in education and training is directly linked to disaster preparedness. After receiving training with the use of simulation, medical and rescue professionals will be better prepared and able to save more lives.

Conclusion

To sum up, technology plays an important role in disaster preparedness. The key technology discussed in the reviewed literature includes social media, websites and web applications, two-way radio systems, satellite telephones, mobile BTS, VR technology, and computer software, such as the GIS and remote sensing software. Technology in disaster preparedness fulfills multiple functions, such as communication, forecasting, and monitoring disasters, alerting the public, evacuation modeling, and training.

References

Alsamhi, S. H., Ansari, M. S., & Rajput, N. S. (2018). Disaster coverage predication for the emerging tethered balloon technology: Capability for preparedness, detection, mitigation, and response. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 12(2), 222-231. Web.

Duan, Y., Zhang, J., Xie, M., Feng, X., Xu, S., & Ye, Z. (2019). Application of virtual reality technology in disaster medicine. Current Medical Science, 39(5), 690-693. Web.

Khan, A. H. (2019). Use of science and technology in disaster management and risk reduction. SUB Journal of Sustainable Environment and Development, 4, 26-39.

Meechang, K., Leelawat, N., Tang, J., Kodaka, A., & Chintanapakdee, C. (2020). The acceptance of using information technology for disaster risk management: A systematic review. Engineering Journal, 24(4), 112-132. Web.

Yulianto, E., Utari, P., & Satyawan, I. A. (2020). Communication technology support in disaster-prone areas: Case study of earthquake, tsunami and liquefaction in Palu, Indonesia. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 45, 1-8. Web.