Over the past week, we’ve heard a lot of talk about the use of social media and mobile technologies in disaster response.
The National Conference on Citizenship featured a discussion about using mobile devices to respond to disasters and emergencies.
And, in response to the earthquake in New Zealand, Google launched a Person Finder page to help victims of the earthquake reconnect with family and friends.
There’s a common theme across these articles—the ease of access to information that social media and mobile technology bring to crisis situations. Social and mobile tools make it easy to share information about events as they happen and to start responding to disasters when they occur.
The Citizen Superheroes article talks about ways that mobile and social technology can be used to address issues before they turn into emergencies. SeeClickFix lets people report public safety issues, ihollaback.org allows people to report harassment or threats and uses reports to create maps of areas where the behavior may be more common. Both of these are great examples of addressing potential problems before they can turn into a crisis.
The San Ramon Valley Fire department had an iPhone app developed that connects 9-1-1 dispatchers with people who are trained in CPR, putting individuals who are closest to those in need into a potentially lifesaving position.
Blake Canterbury started beremedy as a way to build an infrastructure for action in times of emergency. beremedy matches people who want to give with people in need. Beremedy’s platform allows people affected by disasters to be connected to people who have resources that can help those individuals get back on their feet.
Eli Hayes started Sparkrelief in response to the Fourmile Fires in Colorado in 2010. Originally a way to help families displaced by the fires find temporary housing with other families in the community, Sparkrelief ballooned into a twenty thousand member strong community of people willing to share resources that victims of the fires might not have realized they needed.
Sparkrelief now has a member base that not only directly responds to disasters in their neighborhood, but aids in community and emotional recovery in Colorado. It’s not only a source for victims’ immediate needs like food and shelter, but a resource for helping to rebuild communities by providing emotional support and a way for community members to easily reach out to each other.
It’s really great to see mobile and social technology moving from a reactive role in disasters to a proactive role. What do you think are the best ways to move mobile tools into a more proactive role for volunteer events? How can we use existing (or develop new) mobile applications to manage volunteers before and after projects or disasters?