Technology and Coping with Disaster
Natural disasters come in many shapes. From incomprehensible carnage of last weekend’s tsunami in Indian Ocean, to hurricanes and typhoons, to tornadoes and drought, our world deals with horror of disaster as a normal part of our lives. Throw in a bit of human influence through wars, terrorism, or threat of weapons of mass destruction, and our need to deal with and overcome calamity almost becomes routine.
Watching CNN and news channels gives a near real-time view of disasters. While some may find this a bit macabre, it also shows our ability to quickly respond to major events, on a global scale. The same technologies that allow us to view aftermath of a tsunami also allow us to quickly gather factual data on extent of a disaster, and use that for disaster planning and response.
Organizations such as Pacific Disaster Center (http://www.pdc.org/), Asia Pacific Area Network (http://www.apan-info.net/), try to assist regional nations to build better disaster planning models and response model through training and timely dissemination of critical information. Regional military organizations participate with each other on joint disaster planning (for other than wartime-related disaster) to organize their resources in response to a regional disaster, and can respond within hours to major problems.
While carnage on scale of Indian Ocean tsunami cannot be controlled within a day or a few days, communications and real time information collection on disaster will most certainly reduce level of misery experienced by victims at a level that would not have been possible even 40 years ago. As aircraft and on-site persons (using satellite phones or other powerful mobile communicators) collect information on areas of Sumatra, Thailand, and other affected areas, information is almost immediately being logged, evaluated, distributed, and prioritized among a number of emergency response centers operated by regional governments - as well as international relief agencies.
From regional and international response centers coordination further occurs among members of organizations such as Multinational Planning Augmentation Team (http://www2.apan-info.net/mpat/ ). MPAT holds frequent disaster response exercises among member nations to ensure coordination lines and pre-planned responses are quickly executed. All MPAT member nations have access to central databases of planning information, available resources, and a “command center” mobilized when a regional disaster occurs.