When an emergency occurs, getting fast, accurate information on the nature and scope of a hazard is a key to protecting lives and property.
Pacific Disaster Center is making its disaster and hazard data available as immediate information through multiple media platforms including now with a new Disaster Alert application for iPhones and iPads.Disaster alerts also are issued through PDC’s Twitter and Facebook connections, emanating from PDC’s site, www.pdc.org. Immediate updates on hazardous events occurring worldwide are posted on the Natural Hazards and Vulnerabilities Atlas, an interactive map at the top of the PDC home page.
The free iPhone/iPad application provides access to the PDC Active Hazards site, which posts phenomena – storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, wildfires and marine events – designated “potentially hazardous to people, property or assets” by the PDC DisasterAWARE decision support system and disaster management professionals.
For Hawaii residents, the Active Hazards list gives special attention to threats to the Islands from high surf, high wind, tropical cyclones and other weather hazards. That’s because the PDC gets immediate information about threats to Hawaii from the National Weather Service Honolulu office, says Ray Shirkhodai, PDC Executive Director.
Globally, Disaster Alert and the Hazards Atlas provide instant access to updated visualized data on 12 types of natural threats: Drought, earthquakes, floods, man-made events, marine incidents, storms, cyclones, tsunami, volcanoes, wildfires, as well as high surf and high wind events in Hawaii. Other kinds of hazards will be added as the system expands and information updates will be posted on the Atlas and through the Disaster Alert systems, he said.
He said PDC saw the mobile platforms as a means of getting information on hazards to the public more quickly and contracted to have the application developed and implemented with the Apple systems.
“We are very pleased with this new app and we consider its publication an important milestone,” he said. “Disaster Alert puts the latest reliable hazard and disaster information in the hands of the public anywhere in the world.”
There was an immediate public response as well. Shirkhodai reported there were 633 uploads of Disaster Alert the first day it was available at the Apple/iTunes store in July. As of mid-September, PDC reports over 20,000 uploads and plenty of positive feedback.
While the Apple systems are the first smart phone-based mobile platforms to be provided an application, he said the initial success is prompting further review on other smart phone systems. Funding is a constraint but the immediacy allowed by smart phone applications is making the devices strategic priorities for dispensing emergency information, he said.
Information on natural disasters is updated 24/7 at the PDC site as agencies provide data. With agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, there are real-time updates on earthquake and tsunami threats.
“We generally pick up updates within minutes of the main agency reports,” he said.
Data is provided by multiple agencies in the United States and around the globe. Managed by the University of Hawaii, PDC was established in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Iniki, which swept over the Island of Kauai in 1992 causing $3 billion in damages on all of the islands. The hurricane caught emergency management agencies by surprise when it shifted course unexpectedly, generating an appreciation of the need for better information management when a natural disaster threatens an area.