Are federal agencies effectively utilizing technology for disaster response and recovery?

Last week, the entire east coast was rocked by Sandy. Now, a week later, life is starting to return to normal in some neighborhoods. Many, however, especially in New York and New Jersey, still remain without power, homes and in need of help.

Many key decision makers, however, are not geographically located in the areas that were hardest hit and are often not part of the team of first responders on the ground. For situations like these, unified communications (UC) like video teleconferencing (VTC) can give decision makers and others a first-hand look at the situation as well as enhance communication and planning among various response teams.

But is the federal government effectively utilizing these technologies?

A recent article does a great job of outlining the potential that UC/VTC has in enhancing disaster response from the federal government.

How did your agency or department specifically use technology to prevent a lapse in work or to enhance its own disaster relief efforts? Do you feel it was enough or could their efforts be improved?

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Terrence (Terry) Hill

FEMA’s administrator – Craig Fugate – is a master at using social media. FEMA has great Twitter feeds in all of the its regions, as well as one by Mr. Fugate himself. They also have a mobile app to locate disaster assistance and shelters. They also have a presence on Facebook, which links them to their constituents.

Agency’s tend to be focused (rightly so) on their external stakeholders (like disaster survivors), than their own employees.

Jessica Day

It’s very intriguing how technology has interacted with this latest crisis: from the Google crisis map that charted all sorts of crowd data (including pictures and video) to the current crowdfunding push to share some of the financial burden of this: http://www.crowdsourcing.org/editorial/crowdfunding-hurricane-sandy-recovery/20932/500

But you’re right – it seems that it is more common to see these crowd-based technologies in the private sectors than the government agencies. Or are there more examples than I am thinking of? FEMA, as stated below, is a great example: http://www.crowdsourcing.org/editorial/where-you-and-anyone-else-can-help-fema-with-hurricane-sandy-recovery/21118