Saturday, May 23, 2009

Technology's Role in Disaster Mitigation


Well the title sounded interesting ... An article posted in Government Technology Emergency Management News summarized the address of Lt. Gen. Russel Honore the commander of Joint Task Force Katrina responsible for coordinating military relief efforts across areas of the Gulf Coast impacted by Hurricane Katrina, at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Stakeholders East 2009 Conference in Washington, D.C. Lt. Gen. Honore faced many challenges that could have been made considerably easier if people had been prepared with the help of technology. READ MORE

However after reviewing the article I must conclude that even though Lt. Gen. Honore does not really understand to grasp what technology has to offer to the disaster/emergency management community and seems to be focusing on the widgets the technologists are trying to sell rather than what is really needed. For example the General discussed that people tracking was a major problem. He said that during Katrina children were evacuated via medical helicopters and aircraft carriers and rescued from the tops of houses and had to be separated from their parents. Later, reuniting those children with their parents took as long as 30 days. Smart cards, bracelets and necklaces would speed up that process. It would appear the General had recently received a sales briefing from a smart card technology company rather than talking with technologists concerning a true solution using a geospatial information system. A perfect smart card is useless if it can't determination the location of those lost and those loooking for the lost.

I'm looking for a complete text of Lt. Gen. Honore's remarks to see if I'm not being too harsh but I wonder how can you discuss technologies role in disaster preparation, mitigation, response and recovery without even commenting on how geospatial technologies can be better applied?



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