A Disaster Technology Continuum:
Technology ecosystems for disaster risk reduction refer to the network of technologies, organizations, and individuals involved in managing and reducing the risk of disasters. This ecosystem includes everything from early warning systems and disaster response technologies to data management and communication tools.
Effective disaster risk reduction requires the integration of various technologies and stakeholders into a cohesive ecosystem. This means creating a network of interconnected systems that can work together to identify and mitigate risks, respond to disasters, and support recovery efforts.
One of the key components of a technology ecosystem for disaster risk reduction is the use of data to inform decision-making. By collecting and analyzing data on weather patterns, infrastructure, and demographics, stakeholders can identify areas that are at high risk for disasters and develop targeted strategies for prevention and response. This data can also be used to monitor the effectiveness of disaster management efforts and adjust strategies as needed.
Additionally, communication technologies play a crucial role in facilitating coordination and information-sharing between stakeholders in a disaster situation. This includes everything from radio and satellite phones to social media and messaging platforms. By leveraging these technologies, stakeholders can communicate effectively and coordinate response efforts in real-time.
1. A Broader Meaning of “Technology”
Figure 1: We need to take a broader meaning of ‘technology’ as ‘ways of doing things’ and include both hard and soft issues and aspects related to the environment.
When we think of technology, we often associate it with physical devices such as computers, machinery, and equipment. However, in the context of disaster risk reduction, technology takes on a broader meaning that encompasses more than just hardware. Instead, it includes "ways of doing things" that can include both hard and soft issues and aspects related to the environment.
This broader definition of technology includes a range of tools and approaches that can be used to mitigate and manage disaster risks. Techniques such as hazard mapping and risk assessments can help to identify areas that are at high risk for disasters, while skills and training programs can help to build capacity among stakeholders to effectively manage and respond to disasters.
Information management systems and decision support systems are also important components of a technology ecosystem for disaster risk reduction. These systems can help stakeholders to collect and analyze data on hazards, vulnerabilities, and capacities, and use that information to make informed decisions about disaster prevention, mitigation, and response.
Policies and strategies are also critical components of a technology ecosystem for disaster risk reduction. Governments and organizations can develop policies and strategies that promote disaster risk reduction and ensure that resources are allocated appropriately to manage disaster risks. These policies can range from building codes and land-use regulations to disaster response plans and financial mechanisms for recovery and reconstruction.
The environment itself is an important consideration in the development of technology for disaster risk reduction. This can include the use of green infrastructure and nature-based solutions to mitigate risks and enhance resilience, as well as the development of technologies that minimize environmental impacts during disaster response and recovery efforts.
By taking a broad view of technology and including a range of tools and approaches in a technology ecosystem for disaster risk reduction, stakeholders can effectively manage and reduce disaster risks, protect communities, and promote sustainable development.
2. Technology Ecosystems
Figure 2: A wide variety of stakeholders undertaking different roles and responsibilities need to come together to develop and deploy appropriate technologies for disaster risk reduction.
A technology ecosystem refers to the interconnected network of technology-based organizations, individuals, and other entities that interact with each other to create, develop, distribute, and use technology products and services.
It is a complex and dynamic environment in which different technology companies, developers, users, and other stakeholders collaborate, compete, and interact to create and maintain innovative technological solutions, in this case for disaster risk reduction.
The technology ecosystem includes various components such as hardware, software, networks, and data, as well as the social and economic factors that influence the development and adoption of new technologies.
3. The Three Aims of Disaster Technologies
Figure 3: There are essentially three aims of technologies for disaster management. These look at the human and environmental dimensions, and the overlapping area of sustainable development.
Disaster technologies can play a crucial role in reducing loss of human lives, preserving the environment, and promoting sustainable development in several ways:
Early Warning Systems: Disaster technologies can be used to develop early warning systems that can alert people about potential disasters, such as floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, and hurricanes. This can help people evacuate the affected areas and reduce the loss of human lives.
Disaster Management and Response: Disaster technologies can be used to manage and respond to disasters, such as search and rescue missions, by providing access to real-time data and information. This can help to save lives and minimize the impact of disasters.
Disaster Recovery: Disaster technologies can also be used to facilitate disaster recovery efforts by providing access to communication networks, power grids, and other essential infrastructure. This can help to restore essential services and promote sustainable development.
Sustainable Disaster Preparedness: Disaster technologies can be used to promote sustainable disaster preparedness by developing innovative solutions that use renewable energy sources, reduce waste, and promote sustainable development.
Data Collection and Analysis: Disaster technologies can be used to collect and analyze data related to disasters, such as weather patterns, water levels, and seismic activity. This can help to improve the accuracy of early warning systems, disaster management and response, and disaster recovery efforts. Overall, disaster technologies aim to achieve three goals: (1) reduce loss of human lives, (2) preserve the environment, and (3) promote sustainable development by providing innovative solutions for disaster preparedness, management, and recovery.
4. Technologies and the Disaster Cycle
Figure 4: For each stage of the disaster cycle, the cause-effect issues to be taken into consideration that include both human lifestyle issues and environmental aspects.
The disaster cycle typically consists of four stages: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Each stage has its own set of human causes and environmental impacts, as described below:
Mitigation Stage: This stage involves activities that reduce the likelihood or severity of a disaster. Human causes of disasters during this stage can include lack of investment in hazard-resistant infrastructure, land use practices that increase vulnerability to hazards, and lack of zoning and building codes. Environmental impacts during this stage can include deforestation, erosion, and loss of biodiversity due to land use changes.
Preparedness Stage: This stage involves activities that prepare communities and organizations to respond to disasters. Human causes of disasters during this stage can include lack of awareness and education, inadequate planning and resources, and limited access to early warning systems. Environmental impacts during this stage can include water and air pollution from the use of emergency generators and the disposal of hazardous waste.
Response Stage: This stage involves activities that are carried out during and immediately after a disaster to save lives and reduce suffering. Human causes of disasters during this stage can include inadequate emergency response planning, communication breakdowns, and delays in mobilizing resources. Environmental impacts during this stage can include soil and water contamination from hazardous materials, and destruction of ecosystems due to debris and waste.
Recovery Stage: This stage involves activities that aim to restore normalcy to communities affected by a disaster. Human causes of disasters during this stage can include insufficient funding and resources, inadequate planning and coordination, and unequal distribution of resources. Environmental impacts during this stage can include land degradation, soil erosion, and loss of biodiversity due to reconstruction activities.
Each stage of the disaster cycle has its own set of human causes and environmental impacts, which highlight the importance of comprehensive disaster risk reduction strategies that address the root causes of disasters and promote sustainable development. Disaster technologies will have to address these root causes to reduce risk.
5. Examples of Disaster Technology Categories
Figure 5: Environmental technologies can cover a number of issues and sub-issues, including infrastructure, information, assessment, preparedness etc. They cover both the natural environment as well as the built environments
A key issue in information management for disaster risk reduction is that of appropriate and timely data collection and management. Collecting and managing data on disasters and their impacts can be challenging, particularly in low-resource settings or in areas with limited infrastructure. Even with good data and information, interoperability can be an issue, with different systems and platforms being used for disaster management may not be compatible, hindering coordination and communication between response teams. Data privacy and security is also a policy priority, to ensurw the privacy and security of sensitive disaster-related data, which can be challenging, particularly in the context of open data initiatives.
Sustainability of water resources and their proper management is important since some technologies for water management, such as desalination and groundwater extraction, may also have negative environmental impacts or be unsustainable in the long term. Water management is often governed by complex regulatory frameworks, which can hinder the adoption of new technologies and approaches. In some areas, water scarcity is a chronic problem, which may require a combination of technologies and approaches to address the problem, particularly during disaster recovery phases.
Many technologies for forest management, such as remote sensing and GIS, need core funding as they could be expensive to implement and maintain, particularly in large or remote areas. Addressing the root causes of forest degradation and deforestation requires collaboration between different stakeholders, including governments, communities, and the private sector. At the same time, indigenous knowledge and practices related to forest management may be undervalued or ignored in the development of technologies.
Disaster management technologies and approaches may need to be adapted to local cultural and social contexts to be effective. The adoption and implementation of new technologies for disaster management may require changes in policy and governance frameworks, and ultimately, technologies for disaster management should not only aim to reduce disaster risks but also to promote resilience and sustainable development.
6. A Framework for Disaster Technologies
Figure 6: In understanding the role of environmental technologies available for disaster management, we can look at it as a framework of hard and soft technologies, for pre-disaster (prevention and preparedness) and post-disaster (response, rehabilitation and reconstruction) phases.
Pre-disaster technologies are technologies that are used before a disaster occurs to prevent or reduce its impact. These technologies can include early warning systems, hazard mapping, land-use planning, and structural reinforcement of buildings and infrastructure. The goal of pre-disaster technologies is to reduce the risk of disasters and build resilience in communities.
7. Stakeholders for Technology Development
Figure 7: Developing technologies for disaster risk reduction requires us to understand who uses the technologies and at what level – from single households and communities to city wards, local governments and national governments.
Developing technologies for disaster risk reduction requires us to have a deep understanding of the various stakeholders involved and their different needs. It is important to identify the specific groups of people who will be using the technologies and at what level, whether it is at the household, community, city ward, local government or national government level. Each of these groups has different needs, capacities and resources, and technologies need to be designed and implemented in a way that takes these differences into account.
For example, technologies that are designed for households and communities may need to be low-cost and easy to use, while technologies designed for local governments may need to be more complex and capable of handling large amounts of data. Similarly, technologies designed for national governments may need to be scalable and interoperable with other systems.
Additionally, different stakeholders may have different levels of access to technology and different levels of technical proficiency, so it is important to ensure that technologies are designed with accessibility and usability in mind. This requires working closely with stakeholders to understand their needs and requirements, and involving them in the design and implementation process.
By understanding the needs of different stakeholders and designing technologies that meet those needs, we can ensure that disaster risk reduction technologies are effective, accessible, and widely adopted. This can ultimately help to reduce disaster risk and build resilience in communities.
Figure 8: The kind of technology needed changes as along the stakeholder s – from preparedness and preventive technologies to response and restorative technologies
The type of technology required in the disaster management cycle can vary depending on the needs of different stakeholders. This includes everything from preparedness and preventive technologies to response and restorative technologies.
Preparedness and preventive technologies are designed to reduce the likelihood of a disaster occurring and to minimize its impact if it does occur. For example, early warning systems can alert communities to the approach of a natural disaster, while hazard mapping can identify areas that are at high risk for specific types of disasters. Structural reinforcement of buildings and infrastructure can also help to reduce the risk of damage and loss of life in the event of a disaster.
Response technologies, on the other hand, are designed to address the immediate aftermath of a disaster. This can include search and rescue equipment, temporary housing, and medical supplies. Communication tools such as satellite phones and mobile charging stations can also help to facilitate coordination between first responders and affected communities.
Restorative technologies are used to support long-term recovery efforts after a disaster has occurred. This can include water filtration systems to provide clean drinking water, as well as tools for rebuilding infrastructure and homes that have been damaged or destroyed. Disaster recovery and management software can also help to coordinate recovery efforts and manage resources effectively.
It is important to note that different stakeholders may require different types of technology at different stages of the disaster management cycle. For example, households and communities may need more emphasis on preparedness and preventive technologies, while local governments may require more advanced response and recovery technologies. National governments may require a combination of all three types of technologies to effectively manage large-scale disasters.
By understanding the needs of different stakeholders and tailoring technologies to those needs, we can improve the effectiveness of disaster management efforts and reduce the impact of disasters on communities.
7.1 Preparedness Technologies
Preparedness technologies are designed to help individuals and communities prepare for disasters before they occur. These technologies can include early warning systems, emergency communication systems, and disaster response plans. They enable people to be informed and ready to act in case of a disaster.
Preparedness technologies also help in organizing emergency supplies and services, such as medical equipment and shelters.
Examples of technologies for disaster preparedness (developed by private companies in Japan1):
Preventive technologies aim to reduce the likelihood of disasters from occurring or mitigating their impact. They can include structural measures such as building codes, reinforced concrete, and flood barriers.
Non-structural preventive technologies can also include land-use planning, deforestation management, and effective waste management. These technologies help minimize the risks of disasters and prevent them from escalating into major catastrophes.
Examples of technologies for disaster prevention (developed by private companies in Japan):
Response technologies refer to the tools and systems used to respond to disasters as they unfold. They are designed to help reduce the impact of the disaster and save lives. Examples of response technologies include search and rescue equipment, medical supplies, and disaster response teams.
Communication equipment such as radios, satellite phones, and GPS tracking devices are also crucial response technologies.
Examples of technologies for disaster response (developed by private companies in Japan):
Restorative technologies are used to help communities recover after a disaster has occurred. They can include infrastructure restoration, rebuilding homes, and restoring essential services such as power and water supplies.
Restorative technologies also support the rehabilitation of affected people by providing mental health services and other social support mechanisms. These technologies help communities get back on their feet after a disaster and ensure a quick recovery.
Examples of technologies for restoration after disasters (developed by private companies in Japan):
It is this totality of solutions (the “ecosystem” of technology development and management) that need to be put in place which is important for the “Grandmother dilemma” – essentially ensuring that community organizations, local institutions, and ordinary citizens utilize the appropriate technologies to reduce risk
Appropriate disaster technologies can play a critical role in disaster management and response, and its effective use can improve disaster preparedness, enhance emergency response, and facilitate post-disaster recovery efforts. The use of innovative technologies to support disaster management, can help to save lives, protect property, and reduce the overall impact of disasters.
However, the successful implementation of such technologies requires careful planning, effective coordination, and continuous training and support. Governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders must work together to develop and implement disaster technology strategies that are tailored to local contexts and aligned with broader disaster risk reduction goals.