How to Use Mobile Devices for Effective Disaster Response

By: Esther Shein| - Leave a comment

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Smartphones and mobile devices are no longer optional for certain aspects of daily life, so it’s only natural that businesses should use them as tools for disaster response. In addition to text messaging and social media for communication, however, there are several apps and software platforms that can aid companies in predicting and preparing for these incidents — as well as reacting in a timely manner.

Relevant Apps and Software

According to the Pew Research Center, some 40 percent of Americans have used their smartphone to find and use government services or related information. Emergency agencies such as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross have developed apps that users can download to help plan for personal disaster response, receive breaking news alerts and monitor weather conditions when an issue occurs.

Social media is more frequently becoming the outlet of choice by emergency management officials to issue warnings about changing weather conditions and provide information about what to do during and after a disaster. If you still have internet connectivity, a helpful tool to locate and communicate with friends and family is Facebook’s Facebook Safety Check. Additionally, its Facebook Live feature enables live video streaming to broadcast your status from a smartphone. Google Crisis Response has a page that lists alerts around the country and in a user’s state.

For the Enterprise

Businesses can create LinkedIn members-only groups for their employees to share information about an outage or emergency. Closed groups and private discussions are available on Twitter as well, allowing businesses to share short pieces of information as an incident unfolds. Company accounts may also using a hashtag that includes the company name so employees can categorize updates to that topic alone.

Because prevention is a firm’s best defense, businesses should use emergency management systems to prepare for “what if” scenarios, determine who’s responsible for what and conduct logistics planning so IT knows when and where they’ll receive assistance. With the growing use of predictive analytics platforms, companies can also prepare their disaster response plans by proactively detecting things like water leakages, while collaborating across disparate systems regionally, nationally and globally.

Is Your Business Prepared for a Disaster?

Less than half of employees believe their employers are prepared for catastrophic events like hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes, according to a study conducted by Staples, Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) reports. Consequently, this leaves workers unprepared to take action and depend upon first responders. And while they may have and business continuity plans in place, organizations need to think about gathering only the most relevant and actionable information and porting it to mobile devices so it is easily accessible for employees to respond to in a timely manner.

It’s important for companies to tailor disaster response and recovery plans to meet their specific needs, especially if they have multiple facilities and locations, the magazine notes. Smartphones and tablets are useful for taking videos and photos to provide a near real-time perspective so IT can react more quickly and make adjustments in recovery, but companies that are subject to regulatory compliance are also recognizing the power of mobile. In some cases, suggests OHS, they’re even using mobile devices to capture and report on compliance measures when it comes to issues like hazardous materials and their safety hazard plans.

Ultimately, users should follow basic steps to extend the life of their smartphone or tablet. These include regularly charging it, keeping the battery cool, dimming the screen’s brightness to preserve the battery and closing out apps when they’re not in use. Staff should also consider having backup batteries, waterproof cases, portable charging devices and a cell phone signal booster. These are critical steps to enable employees to proactively prepare for when something goes wrong.

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About The Author

Esther Shein

Freelance Writer

Esther Shein is a freelance writer and editor specializing in technology, business and education. Her work has appeared in several online and print publications, including Inc., Computerworld, NetworkComputing, InformationWeek, BYTE, CIO, CMO.com and The Boston Globe. She has written thought leadership whitepapers, customer case studies and marketing materials in addition to news and feature articles. Prior to going freelance she was the editor-in-chief of Datamation, an online enterprise technology magazine. She was also a senior writer at eWeek (formerly PC Week) and worked at The Associated Press.

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