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Convergence of technology & social media during disasters

By September 27, 2018Blog

In a world of mobile everything, instant connectivity and social media right at your fingertips, many companies are challenged with figuring out the most effective ways to manage the technology and make it work for the organization. During daily operations, social media is usually a communication medium solely used by marketing, however, when it comes to storms or other events, the strategy becomes much more critical to deliver timely, relevant and pertinent information.  A key challenge for utilities is quickly collecting and disseminating the information to marketing so it’s communicated with customers and stakeholders in a timely manner. If you are scratching your head wondering how you can impact the information sent to customers keep reading for how to maximize social media efforts and keep your customers informed.

Those Closest to the Trouble Need the Necessary Tools

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to critical information and updates, I want it from the source- the response team that’s in the trenches with full visibility. Who better to assess an emergency than those responding first-hand. Field workers, first responders and emergency crews are closest to the trouble when an emergency happens so they see it all- but how does that information get communicated to the hundreds, thousands or even millions of people closely watching for social media updates?

They want to know, and they want to know now- outdated information simply isn’t going to suffice. Where are the crews working? Is it safe to go outside? When will my service be restored? These are just a few of the questions the general public want to be answered quickly and accurately. Through the use of mobile technology, information is easily compiled and in real-time. An article from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) further explains the significance of social media during an emergency, “Social media and collaborative technologies have become critical components of emergency preparedness, response, and recovery.”

Emerging Technologies for Efficient Emergency Management

Wireless devices and social media have dramatically changed how we respond to emergency situations. But the speed and convenience of social media isn’t the only technological breakthrough changing many emergency management systems.

These technologies represent an opportunity to improve disaster response for emergency management teams and the everyday citizens affected by crises.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence, or AI, can be incredibly useful in disaster management. By analyzing historical data on local infrastructure and previous disasters in the area, AI systems can intelligently predict damage caused by a disaster event.

Some AI is able to monitor entire city systems to measure the impact of natural disasters as they occur. The AI software can then collect and analyze new disaster data to further improve emergency management responses and disaster prevention in the future.

AI can even help to improve interactions between callers and dispatchers. Leveraging speech-to-text analytics, 911 conversations can be analyzed to improve the performance of dispatchers and first responders.

Using predictive analytics, AI software can also help to prioritize emergency requests, helping emergency crews to improve response times.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to any physical objects equipped with digital sensors, processors, or software to communicate with other objects in a particular network.

In other words, IoT is a group of things that can communicate using the internet.

IoT devices can measure important environmental factors that emergency responders need to know.

Temperature, air quality, and water quality are just a few of the risk factors an IoT device can measure. With this surface data, cities and counties can more effectively respond to disasters.

When IoT is combined with city infrastructure like traffic, water, and electrical systems, potential emergencies can be monitored as they develop. IoT devices can monitor potential flood waters, extreme weather events, and more.


Blockchain technology is a digital ledger that stores encrypted blocks of data. You may know it as the basis of the cryptocurrency boom.

While this technology is still developing, it does have some interesting applications for emergency services.

The main benefit of blockchain technology is that it can be adopted as a universal payment system in which many different parties can collaborate to pool their resources.

Most disasters require the intervention of several different organizations, from first responders to humanitarian aid services. If these different parties adopted blockchain technology, decision makers could more effectively marshall their collective capabilities.

Blockchain could also affect transparency and accountability in disaster relief. A blockchain record is accessible to everyone and shows specifically how resources have been allocated and by whom.

Technology in Recovery

Innovations in technology have led to significant breakthroughs in the way we manage emergencies. But it’s not just response teams that can benefit from new tech.

Everyday citizens affected by disasters can find support and comfort using recovery technology.

Although these technologies are still growing, the potential they have to transform the way we manage emergency situations is tremendous. It’s likely that we have yet to see the full impact AI, IoT, and blockchain will have for the future of emergency management.

Digital Identity and Facial Recognition

Everyone affected by a disaster deserves relief and support. But inevitably, there are opportunists eager to fraudulently claim relief resources for themselves, taking away relief from those who truly need it most.

Facial recognition software can be used to help verify the identities of disaster survivors in need of assistance from government agencies.

Welfare Payments

Automated technologies can help those affected by natural disasters or public emergencies receive timely relief payments. Claims can be quickly tracked and processed, and ultimately, payments can be distributed efficiently.

Time is of the essence for those who have been devastated by disasters, and automated relief payments can help to ensure that everyone gets the support they need as quickly as possible.

3D Planning Technologies

Detailed 3D models of cities can help residents affected by disasters to recover. Not only can 3D models assist local governments in identifying vulnerabilities in infrastructure, but it can also help victims of disaster to process their losses.

Using augmented reality technology, panoramic photographs can be laid over live video to show the state of an area before it was destroyed by a disaster. This 3D technology allows residents to visit their city once again.

A lot can happen in 30 minutes

When seconds count, having the necessary technology available to assess the damage with speed and accuracy is pivotal and maybe even life-saving. There’s no time for manual and untimely phone calls with possibly miscommunicated information back to the damage coordinator – Think back on the childhood game of ‘telephone’- by the time the message reaches the last person it’s likely changed drastically. With mobile technology at field workers fingertips, updates are instantly available to the marketing team for fast and accurate circulation to social media.  Additionally, utilities nationwide that have adopted technologies to expedite and automate the process of collecting information in the field are reducing response time and saving money with up to $400,000 shaved off a storm.

There is no question that the incorporation of social media and new technology has become an increasingly important part of preparedness and response planning. Through the utilization of the right technology tools and streamlined communication via social media channels-everyone wins!


  • Which technology is best for emergency management?
    • There isn’t one best technology for managing emergencies, but innovations in AI, IoT, and blockchain technologies are revolutionizing the way emergency response teams work. Using this technology, data collection can be performed more efficiently and emergency response operations can be coordinated more quickly.
  • How has technology made emergency management efficient?
    • Emerging technology has made managing emergencies more efficient by improving monitoring systems to alert the relevant authorities to developing emergencies, prioritizing emergency requests for responders, and intelligently predicting disaster damage, so appropriate resource coordination can be performed.
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