Effective use of Mobile Apps & Online Space during Disasters

Kim AmosIt seems the popularity of smartphones and mobile applications are driving demand for mobile disaster information.  Kim Amos (Chief Executive Officer, Bold Communications) and Mr Rick Hoys (Chief Executive Officer, iApps) recently spoke on this at the recent Australian & New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference held at the Mercure Hotel, Brisbane 28th to the 30th of May 2013.

As the trend for smart phone, mobile application and social media use has accelerated across Australia and New Zealand, we have seen these communication tools become an important part of disaster management and recovery. Applications (Apps) that incorporate real time, SMS alerts, early warning systems and geolocation mapping have the ability to save thousands of lives. While social media encourages the general public to act as ‘information volunteers’ keeping people instantly updated as the disaster unfolds using rich content such as photographs and video.

However, although there are an increasing number of mobile applications (both free and for purchase) available to the public and emergency organisations to assist in times of flood, fire and other disasters, the reality is they still have limited take up. In what now seems like an environment of ongoing disaster events, it is crucial that we examine how we can better incorporate quality applications (apps), social media platforms and the online space into our disaster management planning and strategy.

Early comprehensive planning of applications – built for purpose – will benefit organisations and the public in the disaster management process and organisations need to market their application and educate application users by using effective online and traditional communication practice. The broader network of the online space and establishing efficient online communities will maximise the take up and effectiveness of disaster mobile applications to provide effective communication links between emergency operation centres, the media, front-line responders and affected communities.