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In 1999, the cyclone-prone Indian state of Odisha was hit by a high-impact super cyclone that claimed the lives of over 100,000 people. Fast forward to fifteen years later, the state was caught off-guard by a rare summer cyclone “Fani”. Fani would have caused massive casualties across many districts. Still, it was because of the use of technology, termed EWDS (Early Warning Dissemination System), that thousands of people were saved, and tragedy was avoided. This is just one example of harnessing the power of technology to tackle disasters.
In 2018, natural disasters caused the loss of many lives and economic damages of more than 130 billion dollars. Due to the increasing climate change caused by human-related activities, it is estimated that some sort of disaster has been taking place every day on an average for the past 50 years.
The positive news is that while the disasters cause economic and structural losses, the number of deaths has been reduced by almost three times. This has been possible only because of improved disaster management and the implementation of technology.
Technology can be used to both; warn communities before the disaster and help with post-disaster management. For example, during or post-disaster, connectivity between people is the most basic and essential requirement. More often than not, local internet or call-providing services fail to perform adequately during disasters.
This is where advanced technology comes in. Technologies such as Cisco’s Tactical Operations (TacOps) use a combination of cloud-based and mobile networking technology to assist quickly and efficiently. To date, it has helped more than 65,000 people get relief and aid.
Similarly, Ushahidi is a Kenyan company that provides an open-source crowdsourcing tool that can collect data about any crisis or disaster from sources such as SMS, email, and social media. This helps people to form rapid response teams and provide swift on-ground relief.
Another way that technology can be harnessed is in the early prediction and detection of disasters. This can be done with the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning – it is capable of collecting huge amounts of seismic and geological data and monitoring it to find the patterns of disasters. This way, authorities can be warned ahead of time, and any preparations can be carried out to ensure the safety of the public.
Using robotics to combat disasters is yet another advancing field of disaster management. Robots can be used to conduct rescue operations in areas where the terrain is difficult or where the surroundings are sensitive, such as earthquake-hit cities. Additionally, robots can provide mapping, supply delivery, and many other essential operations much more efficiently than human beings.
Thus, technology can reach where people cannot and break communication barriers in times of need, and so it can be a game-changer in disaster management. More and more governments and organizations must welcome harnessing the power of technology to tackle disasters.