Peripatetic Event

Disasters Dialogue: The Modern Technology Redefining Disaster Management

As modern technology advances, disaster management continually changes for the better. While Europe experienced a historic year for disasters in 2023 and the climate crisis shows no signs of slowing down, it’s important to understand that significant technological progress is being made in the realm of disaster risk reduction. 

From the growing application of the Internet of Things to the widespread adoption of AI, the ways communities and organisations mitigate the consequences of extreme weather events and seismic activity are changing all the time. We’ve put together this piece to expand on the modern technology being applied in disaster management tasks, painting a picture of where the international community is and where it might end up.

AI for Humanitarian Action 

Artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly commonplace across all industries, with around 77% of businesses using or exploring AI in 2024. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that predictive AI has become such a valuable tool in terms preparedness, response, and recovery. 

AI for Preparedness

AI allows for enhanced preparation by being able to analyze large data sets in shorter periods of time, allowing for valuable insights into potential risks and hazards. This essentially means that predictive analytics can forecast disasters, displacement levels, famines, and other consequences. Notable examples of AI being used for disaster preparedness include the World Food Programme’s Food Insecurity Model and UNHCR's Project Jetson.

AI for Response

Artificial intelligence tools can be useful in real-time disaster response efforts, with data analysis and processing being the core facets of managing response rollouts. These deep learning tools can handle natural language and image processing, analyzing social media messages and satellite imagery to map out response strategies and assess damage levels. Tools like the UN’s Rapid Mapping Service and Artificial Intelligence for Disaster Response are notable examples. 

AI for Recovery

AI has some potential to support recovery efforts during prolonged consequences and conflicts, with tools like ICRC’s Trace the Face being a valuable tool for locating missing people with facial recognition technology. AI chatbots can also be useful for providing communication channels to community members, offering them a way to reach information and humanitarian assistance, however, it’s important to consider the importance of empathy and human connection in these instances. 

AI is becoming increasingly viable across disaster risk reduction and reaction strategies. While it’s becoming more prominent, it’s important to remember the risks associated with poor data quality, algorithmic biases, and data privacy. It must be applied with a human touch, within strict guidelines. 

The Internet of Things in Disaster Management

The IoT is one of the core facets of modern technology, with more and more pieces of technology becoming interconnected through the Internet, whether in the home or retail stores. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that they’re becoming increasingly prevalent in disaster management schemes. 

Early Warning Systems: IoT sensors can be installed across cities to monitor environmental factors like seismic activity, weather patterns, and air quality, triggering alerts when anomalies are detected. 

Real-Time Environmental Monitoring: Similar monitors can measure temperature, humidity, and wind speeds to predict disasters like wildfires, floods, and hurricanes, setting up targeted interventions.

Smart Infrastructure: Sensors connected to infrastructure can monitor structural integrity, allowing for the early detection of potential failures, and facilitating preventive measures to be taken. 

Smart Traffic Management: Some Smart Cities have already implemented this system, but IoT traffic lights, signs, and navigation systems can also aid in efficient evacuation and emergency rollouts. 

Emergency Response Coordination: With various IoT sensors in different contexts, the response teams can absorb various data points in real time, allowing for more effective response coordination. 

Wearable Devices: Wearable gadgets like smartwatches can be useful in personal disaster handling, monitoring vital signs and transmitting health data to relevant services during situations. 

Post-Disaster Recovery: IoT devices support damage assessments, making it easier to prioritize recovery efforts, monitor their efficacy, and enhance long-term planning initiatives. 

The embracement of IoT modern technology is likely to be a huge step in terms of establishing more resilient infrastructure, along with more solid response and recovery schemes. The potential for data privacy and false alarms can’t be ignored, but as the technology becomes more advanced, it will only become more reliable. 

Remote Sensing and Earth Observation in Disaster Management

Remote sensing and earth observation are satellite-driven practices, used to observe and analyse areas of the earth, sensing for environmental changes. With climate change increasing the frequency of natural disasters, remote sensing data is becoming more crucial in warning and response systems. 

The European Space Agency Agenda

The ESA has long supported Earth Observation and Remote Sensing programs, intending to use space assets as an element of disaster risk reduction. EO data can be used to track environmental phenomena like droughts, floods, wildfires, etc., allowing for better protective measures to be taken in advance.  

Remote Sensing Data Applications

Soil Moisture Data (SMOS Mission): By analysing soil’s moisture content, the ESA estimated precipitation in Africa, aiding with water management and drought prediction schemes. 

Radar Flood Monitoring: Earth observation and remote sensing technology can penetrate clouds, which is valuable in monitoring and predicting floods. 

Disaster Mapping: Satellite imagery has become a vital element in crafting live maps for disaster management teams and emergency services to use when navigating hazards.

Swarm Mission (In Progress): The Swarm Mission is a support system for tsunami detection, making it easier to characterize potentially dangerous waves. 

While satellites and their earthly observations are no new development, the modern technology that they’re beginning to apply is becoming increasingly effective in managing extreme weather events, natural hazards, and even seismic activity. 

Virtual Reality Emergency Training

Virtual and augmented reality have become entertainment sensations, with products like the Oculus Rift and the Apple Vision Pro becoming highly sought-after consumer goods. Virtual reality has also been used in training programs for aviation and other specialist roles. However, there’s also an increasing economy of virtual reality products used in disaster response training. 

VR in Emergency Training

Virtual reality can replicate high-pressure situations, allowing people to practice response techniques and plan strategies. These virtual reality training sessions can be used in community outreach programs, in schools, or for the sake of training professional/volunteer personnel. The process includes providing head-mounted displays and spatial sound among other immersive features, allowing participants to feel a strong sense of location. 

Typical Workflow

Understanding the basic workflow for a virtual reality training program is important to gathering how it can be utilized in building strategy. 

  1. Selection of base location
  2. Scenario definition (deciding on the hazard/situation) 
  3. Role assignment
  4. Real-time scenario modifications (changes in the situation made by the teacher)

With various scenarios and settings, these programs can be valuable in building community resilience and stronger response teams. It’s important to note that while they can be immersive, they won’t account for the more random factors and physical experiences that a disaster will bring.

As we can see, there have been exciting developments in modern technology, with disaster management becoming a more connected, streamlined experience. While some developments need to be made to create a more cohesive technological strategy and ensure data security, the widespread availability of supportive tech bodes well for the future. 

Introducing: Dr. Muralee Thummarukudy

We’re lucky to host Dr. Muralee Thummarukudy at this year’s Disasters Expo Europe, delivering a seminar titled: Disasters and Modern Technologies, touching on the topics we’ve covered here and more! With over three decades of experience in global management tasks, along with a current position as the Director of the G20 Global Initiative at the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, there are few people in the world more qualified to give this Keynote Speech. 

Register for free tickets now to catch this seminar and a wide range of other expert talks. Alongside all these insightful speeches, the show will also feature hundreds of exhibiting businesses, panel sessions, and limitless networking opportunities. Guarantee awareness of modern technology in disaster management and make your way to this unmissable event. 

Find Disasters Expo Europe listed on PreventionWeb