Friday, September 5, 2008

Before the storm: Proactive communication & disaster resources

I was keeping tabs on various forms of emergency communication regarding Hurricane Gustav, but when I started a blog entry of some observations about that a shooting spree by a mentally ill man killed 6 and injured 4 in the extremely tiny community where my mom lives. She is fine and two miles from the street where most of the carnage took place, but she and her very rural/peaceful community are hurting trying to process this. I will post about Gustav communication at some point, most likely next week, as there were some interesting trends.

That happened the night before our son started 1st grade, so my focus this week had to stay on important things like maintaining composure despite technology glitches at work and the school bus being over a half hour late. I'm not certain my facade worked all that well as I now have a business card from the school district from someone whose official title is Intervention Associate. Maybe next school year my emotional equilibrium will be closer to balanced?

Another September weekend brings another round of hurricane watches. I appreciate the foresight behind the collection of local resources for hurricanes the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Southeast Atlantic Region (NN/LM SE/A) just posted on their blog, in addition to their comprehensive emergency resources & disaster recovery toolkit. NN/LM Middle Atlantic Region (MAR) is also in the projected path and posted a reminder for their organization members to contact them if needed. Be sure to check out the NN/LM Emergency Preparedness & Response Toolkit well in advance of an actual emergency for resources to develop a disaster plan for your library!

Two disaster communication tools for individuals I wanted to highlight are

The Red Cross Safe and Well List


FEMA's (why do they not explain their acronym means Federal Emergency Management Agency on this page?) National Emergency Family Registry and Locator System.

These pages offer a way to register your status and location after a disaster so your friends and loved ones with your pre-disaster contact information are able to know how and where you are.

Strengths of both

  • English/Spanish
  • Web-based registration platform
  • Searchable but still maintains privacy
In my opinion, the Red Cross site is preferable to FEMA's because the latter

  • Requires "10-15 minutes" to register (can you imagine the line behind that computer?)
  • Only allows up to 7 pre-identified people to view your registration information
  • Is "activated only during a Presidentially declared disaster or emergency where people are displaced"
  • Is a federal agency website with a notice that they "will not ask about anyone's citizenship status or forward any information, unless requested by name (bold my emphasis), to the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division."

One strength of FEMA's website over the Red Cross site is that a 800 phone number is provided for those who do not have Internet access to register themselves; this would certainly be helpful for any similar website although subject to staffing, demand, phone lines functioning, etc.

My thoughts that may be unreasonable hopes for the future:

  • Texting as a communication option for registration
  • Pre-registered syndication with an emergency-only application on social networking websites
Others that you have?

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