Proactive Crowdsourcing for Emergency Response

Crowdsourcing is thought in this article as a way to handle emergency situations.   Dr Anu Vaidyanathan, in her article:  Use of technology for emergency response talks about her dissertation titled Proactive Crowdsourcing, her name for a Location-Based Service that could be used for Emergency Response.

mars 6, 2011:

Minutes after the February 22, 2011, earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, our power lines and water supply stopped working. For those with a battery-operated radio, news of the unfolding disaster was still available, minus images on television. Others like me, with an MP3 player that could also get on radio, were limited by the battery-life of the player itself. Most emergency lines were jammed for the first few hours following the disaster as people came to terms with what had happened, the news spread and calls poured in to establish the safety of loved ones.

[…] Through the whole time, what struck me as most odd was that not one mass-SMS was sent to inform citizens about where they could access resources. The use of technology in times of disaster can be very crucial, especially when considering human density in places such as India where the loss of life in natural disasters is huge. I had been through one other emergency such as this one, when I was a graduate student during the twin tower bombings on September 11, 2001. I was at college in Raleigh, North Carolina, which was a good ten-hour drive from New York. However, the memories of that night, with parents of many friends calling me from India, when they couldn’t reach their children, will never leave me. In terms of co-location, for the parents of my friends in India, I was the closest to the emergency.

Proactive crowdsourcing

Both natural disasters and emergencies, especially ones that lead to massive loss of life, bear inspection in terms of how to utilise technology to mitigate some portions of the anxiety and uncertainty that follow such an occurrence. In this article, I explore an idea from my dissertation titled Proactive Crowdsourcing which proposes Location-Based Services in non-commercial spheres such as Emergency Response.

Most proposals for managing emergencies, except in the areas of surveillance, are reactive in nature. This curbs their effectiveness by several orders of magnitude. In the case of emergency management, the need of the hour is to enable more proactive solutions. Crowdsourcing is a term used to describe de-centralising operations and trusting the work to the co-ordinated actions of a crowd. Instead of an Emergency Services provider waiting until the emergency has occurred, assessing the nature of the problem and then deploying resources, if they could instead rely on citizens co-located with the emergency, the management of the emergency would become more agile and effective. Users co-located with the emergency are, arguably, the best sources of information on what might be needed to mitigate the effects.

Sometimes, the requirements are not intuitive and no amount of surveillance or pre and post-op training can predict the needs of the people affected by the disaster. For example, in the case of Hurricane Katrina, one of the biggest requirements that the responders fell short of was ice! Enhanced 911 (or E-911) was proposed in order to link people at the time of an emergency to critical resources. Reverse 911 is another example of a public safety communications system that was built to communicate with people within certain geographies where a database of phone numbers and associated addresses are used to identify citizens co-located with emergencies. Both E-911 and Reverse 911 fall in the category of reactive systems or approaches to the problem. In the case of Reverse 911, the biggest barrier to effectiveness is that in case of a fire in San Diego, locating all households in San Diego en masse may not be the most efficient action plan. There might potentially be several people that have travelled to San Diego from surrounding areas or from afar and locating them is best achieved via a cell-phone, rather than fixed geographical and list-based approaches.

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