Posts Tagged ‘technology


Think Green

FBI Mobile Command Center in Washington DC.

Image via Wikipedia

I like many emergency managers and public safety people, enjoy playing with all the toys and cool equipment we get access to.  This include EOC‘s, mobile command posts, radio systems, etc… but do you ever stop to think of the environmental impact these things have?  They all require electricity and when we are running on backup power they require fuel.  This is bad.  This is particularly bad because in my years I have found many agencies really could care less about wasting fuel or electricity.

It’s generally chalked up to being a part of the process and that the fuel will always be there and who cares, we aren’t paying for it.  Maybe not in that many words but there is the belief that we can use these resources freely because we need to have them available, even if we aren’t using them.  Think about how much we run apparatus and vehicles in idle when nobody is in them and we aren’t using them.  I can understand the arguments behind leaving them running.  Many of our officers and chiefs have been around since the days where a apparatus may not have been the most reliable or batteries and during the winter fire trucks need to circulate water to prevent the pump from freezing.  At least I hope that is why we are so wasteful.  The alternative reason, is that we don’t take responsibility for our poor management of these resources.

I would say it’s time we develop mobile renewable power sources as an alternative to fuel generators and create programs to ensure we don’t waste the tax payers money or waste energy uneccessarily.  Perhaps we need to develop training and policies to ensure that we are using energy efficient technologies, renewable sources of energy, and practicing common sense like flipping the lights off when a room is not in use.  In a time when there is a looming climate crisis and local governments are squeezing the life out of every penny we need to be resourceful and creative in saving money and the environment.


Data-mining and social media

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

There is a lot of hype with social media and emergency management/disaster response.  Buzzwords mostly.  What I have found in my years of EM/response work is that when you get a trend such as social media, you have this mis-use of under utilization of new technologies.  There is a legitimate belief that new technologies are likely hype an will be replaced with newer technologies.

GIS is a prime example.  Huge potential and while I worked in GIS/remote sensing for 3 years while going to school, it seemed that emergency management never saw it as more than a cool new technology.  GIS has been around for years but couldn’t really get out of the gate with EM work.  Social media seems to be stuck in the same posititon.  The reason is that EM’s don’t really know how to use it.  They create facebook and twitter accounts and that is where it ends.  It’s the same with GIS.  EM’s use GIS to create maps.  GIS makes great maps but it’s a data management and analysis tool and EM’s are just realizing this.  Social media is a information portal.  Sure you can tweet about being safe while trick or treating on halloween, and that is a useful feature of social media, but the strength is actually in the analysis of social media traffic during a disaster.  You can gather a unbelievable amount of tactical intelligence by simply looking to see what people are talking about during the course of a disaster/emergency.

Think about what it would be like to have thousands of extra eyes working for you during an emergency.  Rather than wasting valuable resources trying to figure out what’s going on, you can data-mine social media to begin sizing up an emergency.  Now of course you can’t rely on any social media source as your sole source of information but it’s a tool for the tool box.  It’s incredible that we have the opportunity to have a system where you get two way communication during an emergency.  No longer do you have warn civilians and wonder if they get it.  They have a way to immediately interact with you.  That is if you create the opportunity.  Another problem with the use of social media is the fact that you need to believe in it.  If your going to set up all these accounts than you better be invested in it.  If you don’t tweet or post frequently than people are going to stop paying attention.  Finally, you need to take a shot gun approach to getting info out and ingesting info.  If your going to send information out to the public, send it over as many venues as you can.  Twitter, Facebook, your blog, your website, etc….and you need to search all of these sources when collecting data.

Social media has changed the way people interact and how emergency managers can interact with the public but if you don’t buy into it fully than you will never see it’s strengths.


iPad and Disasters

Steve Jobs while introducing the iPad in San F...

Image via Wikipedia

iPad and Disasters, This is a post from Eric Holdeman’s blog “Disaster Zone”.   The article refers to a EMA that is considering using Ipads in their EOC.  This blows my mind.  This is why I created this blog.  Now nothing against Eric, he is a very highly respected and experienced emergency manager but the concept of using an Ipad in an emergency situation scares the hell out of me.  The Ipad is an entertainment device.  It uses proprietary apps (read:cannot use current EM software), it has a single port (read:zero peripheral options), it can only run a single application at a time (can you really get by with one application and closing it to run something else?), the cost is very high compared to included features, you can’t replace the battery and you can’t upgrade any of the hardware (read:this thing will be a utterly useless in a year or so and you can’t upgrade it), and finally it’s fragile as hell.  So thats the bad.

Here’s the good!: There are many other flavors of tablets coming out on the market.  I do see their place and function in an EOC and other emergencies.  Their long battery life, lightweight, small size, and touch screen feature can be very useful.  So far there is only one company who is making a tablet that will run a regular OS, Hewlett Packard aka HP.  I would NOT recommend a tablet without an attached keyboard however.  The reason is that when you type for extended periods of time, the flat glass screens will irritate the hell out of your hand, don’t believe me?  Take you hand and start fake typing onto your table top.  It will get old very fast.  Keyboard keys have give for a reason.  Also, tablet laptops have a little more real estate inside to include better hardware options.  They are also built more robust and will not break like the giant Ipod I mean the Ipad.  If weight is an issue than you have bigger problems than picking a computer.  Modern laptops are very light and you can get some pretty compact computers now a days. Honestly, for emergency service use I would recommend a rugged or at least semi rugged laptop like the Panasonic Toughbooks or Itronix models.  The Ipad is a clever device that has gained a lot of popularity but I WOULD NEVER buy the current version.  First runs on technology are notoriously bad expenditures.  They are full of bugs and are prone to failure.  This is not an Apple thing, that’s an electronic thing.  All first generation electronics come out with limited testing and they can’t account for the failures that will come with day in and day out use by normal people.  Now take someone in emergency services who will beat the ever living hell out of it and see how well it does.

****UPDATE**** So the HP slate, the tablet that can run Windows 7 is apparently pretty disappointing.  To quote Engadget, it’s hardware is “meh”.  I am not surprised.  The hardware isn’t where it needs to be.  I am willing to concede that these are first runs and are a new form factor so we will see what the future holds.


What is this place?

Welcome to Tech 4 Emergencies.  I created this blog because I love technology and am an 9 year firefighter/EMT, worked as a deputy sheriff for 2 years, and have been doing emergency management for 2 years.  I graduated with a B.A. in geography and was a total geek while in school.  I worked as a computer tech at my school as well as working for a world renowned spatial analysis lab.  I love technology and believe that it has and will continue to have a huge influence on emergency management and response.