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Technology’s Role in Recovering From Disasters

An earthquake that shook Oklahoma in September 2016 reopened a debate about the link between underground wastewater disposal and quakes in that state. No major injuries were reported in the 5.6 magnitude quake that reports say was felt as far away as Arizona.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission called for 37 wells around the epicenter of the quake to be shut down because of previous links to wastewater disposal, according to ABC News.

Oklahoma remains a question mark, and most people see earthquakes as natural disasters that can’t be predicted. But technology is going to be around to try anyway.
Radar, satellites, and infrared cameras are expected to be part of future use in predicting the chance of an earthquake.

According to dev.nsta.org, infrared radiation and extremely low-frequency radiation are emitted weeks before an earthquake actually occurs, and well-developed imaging technology may be used to predict a quake. Superconducting antennae and solenoid cells will be some of the future available technology. Also, infrared cameras and advanced radar will take a series of images and collect data that will indicate a coming earthquake.

Advanced satellites that currently determine global positioning systems are expected to be enhanced so they can detect electromagnetic radiation from potential earthquake locations weeks in advance.

On April 25, 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed more than 8,000 people in Nepal. Technology-minded groups immediately began researching the damage using satellites, GPS, and other data.

According to csmonitor.com, researchers got post-earthquake images from satellites that they would use to create three-dimensional images of the earth’s movement during the quake. The scientists noted that the images should help them understand earthquakes and their early warning signs more.

Technology played a role in 2014 when the British were trying to bring help to refugees fleeing northern Iraq. According to the BBC, included among the items dropped by Royal Air Force planes were more than 1,000 solar-powered lanterns attached to chargers for any mobile handset that the refugees could use to charge their mobile phones.

Years earlier, in January of 2010, Haiti was hit by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed 300,000 and left 2.3 million others homeless. But a technologically advanced project came from this and offered survivors some relief.

A major text messaging program known as Trilogy Emergency Relief Application allowed aid workers to get important messages to communities. According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, TERA is an SMS text messaging system that allows two-way communication between those affected by the disaster and those trying to help.

TERA is reportedly now being used in 40 countries worldwide. However, it turns out that FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response) technology helped with the rescue efforts in Nepal. A press release from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate said that the suitcase-sized FINDER device helped to rescue four men who were buried in two destroyed buildings because it could register their heartbeats through the rubble.

The Science and Technology Directorate collaborating with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed FINDER.

Of course, everyone knows that disaster relief organizations can provide aid much more quickly with a short text. Social media can get important communications around much sooner, and makes it easier for volunteers to offer their services. Hopefully, continued research and development can help more people during a crisis, or even stop them before they happen.