By Bernetta Reese, Web and New Media Manager and Kyle Richardson, Public Affairs Specialist
The FirstNet communications team joined hundreds of innovators, entrepreneurs, technologists, emergency managers, and members of the disaster response community to participate in the White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Demo Day earlier this week. The forum was held to discuss how mobile apps, data tools, and social media can be used to help save lives and strengthen preparation and response efforts for disasters and emergencies.
The Obama Administration has been sponsoring a number of demonstration forums in the wake of Superstorm Sandy to find effective ways that technology can empower survivors, first responders, and local, state, tribal, territorial, and Federal governments with critical information and resources. In preparation for this years’ hurricane season, President Obama called on the general public to assist with preparation for all types of emergencies – including natural disasters and manmade events.
Todd Park, Assistant to the President and U.S. Chief Technology Officer, kicked off demo day by noting the progress that has been made in the areas of disaster innovation preparedness. “If you see a tool today that can help empower our first responders, tell them about it,” he said to attendees at the standing room only event, which was also broadcast via live video stream.
Rand Beers, who is Deputy Homeland Security Adviser to the National Security Council, spoke about the importance of harnessing innovation and ideas from the whole community – including the private sector; nongovernmental organizations; communities; individuals; and federal, state, local, tribal and territorial governments. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy also announced the soon to be launched web site – disaster.data.gov.
Developers from both the public and private sector have developed new applications and systems designed to support disaster recovery and response and help facilitate processes around these efforts. Dozens of apps and innovative tools were demoed at yesterday’s event, including:
• The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency GeoQ crowdsourcing tool
• U.S. Department of Energy’s Lantern Live mobile app
• Microsoft’s Yammer survivor network
• Department of Health and Human Services’ tracking tool
• Environmental Protection Agency’s I-WASTE tool
• Department of Homeland Security’s Virtual USA tool and Project First Responder
• U.S. Geological Survey’s ShakeMap tool
• Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development’s MapGive data tool
• The National Public Radio’s emergency alert tool for persons with hearing disabilities
• Google’s Crisis Map
Joe Nimmich, who is Associate Administrator for the Office of Response and Recovery at FEMA summed up a key message of the event by saying first responders should have access to the best technology available to help save lives and make communities more disaster resilient. “Innovation is for first responders,” he said.