Scenarios: disaster response and the media

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Strong Angel III (SA III) is a disaster response event/project/conference going on this week in San Diego. Blogging from the event is Sanjana Hattotuwa from ICT for Peacebuilding. He has several excellent posts up about how technology can/should be used in disasters, such as this one describing an audio interview with Internews regional director Mark Frohardt:

Speaking about new and traditional media, Mark emphasised the importance of disconnected traditional media such as FM radio and newspapers...he also said that we need to look at new and innovative ways to get messages out and in particular mentioned Microsoft FM radio enabled wrist watches (that at presently are first generation, somewhat unreliable for essential communications and not designed for humanitarian aid) that in the future could evolve into devices that could really help first response mechanisms work cohesively and collaboratively.

The title threw me at first (sounds a little too much like the Dark Angel TV show), but the event sounds fascinating. What exactly are they doing in San Diego? Addressing this scenario:

A Complex Contingency: A lethal and highly-contagious virus gradually begins to spread around the globe. Infection rates are high, deaths are frequent, and no vaccine is available. Cities all over the world fall under quarantine. Emergency services and medical centers are stressed and national government agencies, affected just as severely as the cities themselves, cannot provide assistance. And then the situation goes from bad to worse.

A terrorist cell, having long waited for such an opportunity, launches a wave of successful cyber attacks in a medium size city somewhere in the developed world, bringing down grid power, Internet access, land and cellular telephones. Other, more subtle, attacks follow, and it's difficult to sort out the mess.

If there were ever a time to work effectively together, this would be it.

Responses have included a "flash mob" food drive. Look forward to hearing more stories from attendees once everybody is back online.

Related: Northwestern University has a collection of papers online about harnessing the power of communications to avert disasters and save lives. (Hat tip Sanjana)

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