Bethel Emergency Management Volunteers Leverage Neighbors and Technology

October 3, 2013

Todd Sears, Bethel, VT (excerpted from the VT Council on Rural Development Web Site, see link below)

“…C+ is actively exploring ways by which information technology (IT) and web functionality can enable and enhance the role of the citizen during an emergency. This could involve how to best harness social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Front Porch Forum and others like them to expand and add an extra layer of communication and trust to the information created and used about the disaster by the affected municipality. Where yesterday we were concerned with the conventional media outlets and actions, today we must embrace and take advantage of other more progressive options as well.

One of the more exciting applications C+ is experimenting with is called Ushahidi, a freeware, crowd-sourced geospatial information application which allows near real-time plotting of various forms of media onto a map from the field. Imagine a scenario where a stranded neighborhood member, after the worst of a disaster has passed, walks his or her area to take stock of the situation, comes across a neighbor with an injury, a fallen power line, a washed out road, or a collapsed bridge. With a smartphone loaded with a free app and a few button clicks, that person can take a picture (or a video, or write a text narrative) of the situation, and immediately have it plot out onto a web-based map in the municipal Emergency Operations Center or Incident Command Post. An icon appears on the map where the incident has occurred; the operator at the workstation clicks on it, and sees a photo of the phenomenon, with amplifying descriptive information. The implications for immediate response and future planning are staggering.”

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