Innovative Tech that’s Budget Friendly = Proactive Emergency Response?

Innovative Tech that’s Budget Friendly = Proactive Emergency Response?
Aug 14, 2019

Emergencies. What’s the best way to prepare and respond? Increasingly, experts say it’s important to consider neighbors, partners, communities and context. In other words, don’t draft an emergency management plan alone or in isolation. As law enforcement and state and local governments increasingly find, collaboration is key and using the appropriate technology is fundamental to rapid, proactive response.

In 2011, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released its “whole community approach” to emergency management. That means involving everyone in the process: media and schools, nonprofits and businesses, public-private partnerships, technology. It means educating and training citizens. It also entails leveraging new technology in a smart, tailored way. 

But new technology is often expensive and premium functions usually implies paying a premium price, a traditional barrier for emergency management teams to expand their arsenal and respond proactively. However, with new subscription-based pricing models available, stakeholders have found that they’re able to adopt and deploy smart technology options without overhauling their budgets. 

With budget removed as a potential barrier, emergency responders can focus on risk-based planning, in which technology and community can be used in conjunction proactively. A key part of this FEMA-backed approach is “risk-based planning.” That means thinking strategically about which hazards are most likely to become emergencies. 

For instance, is your area of interest in a floodplain? Or are forest fires more of a threat? What industries are nearby? Are there chemical plants or oil refineries that might have spills or flare-ups? Does the community have obvious terrorism targets such as airports or famous landmarks or transportation hubs? When you think about emergency management planning, think deeply about the context in which your organization operates.

These approaches build connections: between people, between technologies, between places. Organizations and jurisdictions around the country have adopted this method of planning for disaster, choosing to integrate with emerging technologies. Here are some of the things to look out for in the near future:

The Internet of Things (IoT) will help emergency professionals to quickly spot and respond to problems.

IoT refers to a network of physical objects equipped with sensors and software that allow the objects to collect data and share it with each other. The Rio de Janeiro City Hall Operations Center uses IoT technology to manage weather, traffic, police and medical services in the city. After Hurricane Harvey, the city of Houston used IoT to identify damage and collect information. If you have a large outdoor area to monitor, consider automating data collection in an emergency.

Automated IoT-based technologies—sensors, cameras, drones, and robots—will help communities leverage their resources.

The Lower Colorado River Authority uses 270 sensors along 600 miles of river to alert authorities to possible flood conditions. In 2015, drones were deployed in 43 disasters in 11 nations around the world. Fire departments are exploring the use of drones in emergency response. The city of Chicago uses a network of surveillance tools, biological, chemical and radiological sensors that feed data continuously to its operations center from which emergency response can be deployed. If you’re a municipal jurisdiction, a park, or a far-flung network, new technologies can be key in the event of a disaster.

It’s a dangerous, chaotic world out there. Luckily, we have an ever-growing toolbox with which to respond, and a community of people and technologies to help. Wouldn’t all these sensors, drones etc. be considered IoT applications?

Subscription pricing models are making new technology more affordable than ever, enabling broader implementation regardless of budget. 

With innovative pricing models, like subscription-based payment that eliminate upfront capital expenditure, more communities will be able to afford cutting-edge technology without increasing their budgets. State and local governments will be able to implement technology-driven solutions to create force multipliers for their first responders, allowing law enforcement, hospitals, and emergency management personnel to work faster and smarter in crisis situations. To learn more about how subscription pricing works to remove budget barriers, read this article about new V5 Systems pricing for portable, self-powered emergency response technology. 

Social media resources will be crucial.

After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Google released its Person Finder app. And people can mark themselves “safe” using the Facebook crisis response function. FEMA is now integrating Facebook and Twitter into its emergency communications. Figure out which platform works best for your situation and make an emergency plan that includes it.

Big Data will influence emergency response.

It’s now possible to use data mapping and “geographic information systems” (GIS) to monitor how an emergency unfolds in real time. Google’s 911 study sought to quantify trends in emergency calls. Meanwhile the federal Office of Management and Budget is working with FEMA to explore how to crowdsource information during emergencies. In another application, Ushaihidi developed an open-source mapping software platform to rescue people after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

As risk factors outside our immediate control continue to make our world more insecure and increase the magnitude of emergencies, especially in the outdoors, the need for thoughtful, collaborative strategies becomes more urgent. Community and technology together can help prevent or alleviate the worst disasters, and budget should never be a barrier to proactive action. 


  1. https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/23781
  2. https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/future-of-emergency-management/
  3. https://10innovations.alumniportal.com/internet-of-things/iot-in-disaster-management-saving-lives-with-early-warning.html
  4. https://www.iotforall.com/iot-natural-disaster/
  5. https://gcn.com/articles/2017/09/20/iot-flood-sensors.aspx
  6. https://dataconomy.com/2018/12/how-big-data-assists-in-disaster-relief-and-preparedness/
  7. https://www.firerescue1.com/emergency-response-in-the-drone-age/
  8. https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/oem/provdrs/tech.html
  9. https://google.org/personfinder
  10.  https://www.facebook.com/about/crisisresponse/
  11. https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2017/10/10/social-media-provides-online-information-and-resources-survivors
  12. https://www.hstoday.us/federal-pages/odni/new-trends-in-geospatial-intelligence-will-aid-emergency-preparedness-and-response/
  13. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1b6OT8u01smq0ZV_mtvF1juj9RZT-36rYKtglLcwl3jU/edit#heading=h.smh77k9frer
  14. https://www.fedscoop.com/emerging-technology-omb-support-first-movers/
  15. https://www.ushahidi.com/blog/2016/06/14/new-maps-timeline-bring-clarity-to-data


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