When a disaster strikes, a swift response is critical for recovery. In the decade, America’s disaster recovery has improved in a number of ways including passing laws that provide proper legal authority in disasters, creating communication devices, developing SMART, implementing text message alert systems and progressing towards a flip-switch emergency broadcasting system.
Providing Explicit Legal Authority
Disaster recovery response efforts have been significantly improved as a direct result of the Post-Katrina Act. This provides the President with the explicit authority to respond to and provide for relief in the event of catastrophic disasters without request. This legal authority may appear insignificant, but such authority can mitigate the damages by reducing the response time of relief efforts. The U.S. Government Accountability Office suggested that this measure be implemented by Congress in order to prevent suffering, save lives and reduce the overall damages of disasters .
Creating Mobile Technology
Communication is imperative to survival after disaster strikes. In emergencies, communications are very often damaged. John Warnes, a specialist member of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, explained that victims of disaster commonly point to communication as more important than food and water . Communication is critical in order for resources to be allocated efficiently. Mobile technologies like mobile wi-fi devices have been created that can be used as a hotspot network for up to 150 people.
SMART is a social media analytics and reporting toolkit developed by the Department of Homeland Security. This system is able to use word filters, topic extraction and similar tactics in order to more fully understand an event. This drastically improves disaster response because it allows a greater awareness of happenings in real time as reported by several different individuals in different areas. This can greatly assist rescue efforts in directing resources or help where it is needed. SMART can also compare current events with historical data of similar events, and this gives us even greater insight on how to respond to certain events .
Text Message Alerts
In 2008, the FCC approved a nationwide emergency text messaging system that allowed nationwide messages to be sent through cell phone providers . Since the program has been initiated, it has been used to send out weather advisories and amber alerts across the nation. This system can also be used in the event of a presidential alert or terrorist attack.
The Media Flip-Switch
When we imagine the President sending an emergency alert, most people incorrectly envision that he can simply flip a switch and come across every television station. As it currently stands, it wouldn’t be possible to air a country-wide message at one time because each station and local jurisdiction must approve of, accept and air the broadcast individually. This type of instant access to broadcast an emergency alert is not yet in place but efforts to make such a system are being processed now. The FCC has proposed such a flip-switch in the form of a national location code.