People and places are at risk to man-made and natural hazards. How can we make ourselves stronger in the face of them? In 2011, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) began an innovative effort to answer this question. ASPR staff noticed that in recent disasters in Haiti, Japan, and the United States, social media tools like Facebook were used to share information about users’ current health or safety status and to coordinate efforts to meet user needs. Working with Facebook and WorldDoc Inc., the ASPR promotes bReddi and Project: Lifeline, two software applications that aid in emergency planning.
Your Lifelines are the Facebook friends that you can count on to check on you and to help you get the basic necessities that you need to keep you safe and healthy throughout… disaster and recovery. As you choose your Lifelines, think about not only the people that you can depend on, but also who may be best able to help you in an emergency. For example, if there is a major disaster, your entire community may be affected, so it helps to have at least one Lifeline that is outside your immediate area (http://www.phe.gov/lifeline/Pages/default.aspx).
The bReddi tool encourages users to pre-establish emergency meeting places, think in advance about help provided to and needed from others, and makes a record of emergency plans and contact information. The application also downloads government-provided alerts regarding a range of hazards that include hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, fires, pandemics, floods, terrorism, and volcanos. The emergency alerts are downloaded based on the area where the user lives and the software estimates degree of risk from nearby hazards.
Project: Lifeline is a social media application that allows individuals to map their social networks, recording who you know, and which of the people in your network know each other. Then, if you have not heard from someone, you can mark them as “missing.” This alerts others who know them that something is wrong, thereby increasing the effort to contact the individual and make sure that they are safe and well. Once contact has been made with the missing individual, their status can be updated. The software allows people to have up-to-date, reliable status reports on the wellbeing of others during disasters or when extra help might be needed. These tools are intended to partially address the reality that telephone lines may be inaccessible in the wake of the disasters, making the creation of additional communication channels advisable.
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This blog post was written by Ashley Fuller, Ph.D. Ashley is a Postdoctoral Researcher on the Climate Vulnerability Project at CCSC.
Image source: iCrossing
WorldDoc is a privately held corporation headquartered in Las Vegas, NV. The company provides information services using social and health data, community resources, and software for health or safety planning and choice making.