One Platform to Rule Them All

23 May

Maybe rule is the incorrect term but how can anyone resist the chance to use a Tolken reference in a title? Shortly after the Sept. 11th attached, over a decade ago, it became clear to everyone that the way we communicate during disasters was, well, disastrous. Here in our own Bay Area a special group was quickly put together and charged with the mission of finding a way of making communication between emergency responders connected across agencies. In a possibly illegal, and likely unethical, turn of events Motorola was assigned this rather daunting task.

The new broadband network system would help first responders talk to each other on the same radio band during major disasters and terrorist attacks. That is a big achievement for police and fire who work with a hodgepodge of different radio frequencies. – ABC News

Some advances on this project have been made; however, the last report placed the project years away from completion and considerably over budget.

…it turned out that the $67 million budget would not cover all of the costs. Local governments could also face an estimated $37 million bill for maintenance and operations. The network is scheduled for completion in 2013. –  The Bay Citizen

In the meanwhile other communication options have arisen as key tools in creating an open and thriving network to assist during disasters.

…During times of disaster, social networks like Twitter and Facebook have proven to be major assets–not just for the public, but also for emergency officials.

One of the big hurdles for emergency managers during (and even after) major storm events is communication.

The problem often times is being able to quickly deliver crucial information to as many people as possible. – RSWFlorida

Here in Alameda County social media is being used as a primary communication tool among emergency releafe organizations, with a drill for this use occuring tomorrow.

CARD provides emergency preparedness and disaster response resources for nonprofits, faith organizations and community agencies serving some of the county’s most vulnerable residents.

It wants to harness the power of social media as a way to communicate with staff members, volunteers, community partners and the general public.  – SanLorenzoPatch

Another advantage that has been found in the use of social media is the ability to aggregate citizens around smaller causes and groups. In the last 24 hours a number of small facebook pages and twitter tags have been created with the purpose of sharing personal, local information about victims of the tornado in Joplin, MO with other community members.

• Joplin Tornado Info is a Facebook page where those on the ground are posting photos, updates and information about missing and found individuals.

• Joplin People Accounted for After the Storm is another Facebook effort where people are sharing information about those who have been found.

Information is also available via Twitter by searching the hashtags #Joplin and #KSStorms. – Wichita Business Journal

As progress slowly continues at the state and federal level on a one size fits all solution to emergency communications, the public and concerned local governments will be working with the technologies already in place that have been used successfully and are accessible to great numbers of people, even in dire situations and disasters.

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