5 Tips for Leveraging Data for Better Disaster Response

February 12, 2020

February is earthquake awareness month and while most of us are reviewing our plans, Puerto Rico and Jamaica have already suffered massive earthquakes, registering tremors as high as 7.7, according to the U.S. Geological Service.

It’s estimated that Puerto Rico has experienced an additional 950 aftershocks, adding more turmoil to an already fragile situation, given that recovery efforts for hurricanes Maria and Irma are still active. More than 250,000 people were initially left without power and many others are without housing, food, water, and other necessities.

A warehouse full of unused supplies that were sent to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria — more than two years ago — was discovered last month, prompting Governor Wanda Vázquez to issue an investigation. We don’t yet know how the supplies were forgotten, but it’s critical to have a process in place that prevents this kind of mistake in the future.

Puerto Rican flag painted on an uprooted tree after Hurricane Maria.

One of the greatest challenges that emergency management agencies (EMA) face is in collecting and analyzing data so they can respond with the appropriate resources in a timely manner. Leveraging a mobile data collection platform like Fulcrum allows EMAs to report supplies received and distributed in real-time or near real-time to their respective agencies.

Every natural disaster is different; there’s no way to predict what will happen or what the needs of the people affected will be. But with mobile technology, rescue teams can be better prepared and organized to respond to these events.

Here are some suggestions to help EMAs and other disaster-response organizations be prepared for the 2020 disaster season:

Digitize your forms

Turn your paper forms into mobile apps that can be filled out anywhere (even in disconnected environments) with a platform like Fulcrum. This will enable you to quickly and efficiently communicate with team members and other agencies, who can view and act on your data remotely.

Develop a list of local hospitals, shelters, and food pantries

Digitize this list so everyone on your team can update and change information. If a hospital is closed, damaged, or full, that information needs to get to your recovery teams immediately.

Coordinate with other agencies

Create a ground strategy that allows you to virtually coordinate with other response teams. A regional response app keeps other teams aware when supplies arrive, hospitals close, or shelters open.

Map your progress

Map your team’s recovery efforts and coordinate with other teams to make sure all activities and supply deliveries are tied to a location and accessible.

Publish your impact

After recovery, it’s important to share your impact and progress with the public, particularly government agencies and other organizations. This data will inform them as to how resources were allocated and what was required to fully recover from the disaster.

Organization, coordination, and accurate, accessible data enable EMAs and other disaster-response organizations to save time — and lives.

Fulcrum is a low-code/no-code platform that enables organizations to reduce costs, access critical data in real-time, and improve decision making at every level. With Fulcrum, you can create custom apps using our simple drag-and-drop builder to turn your paper documents into digital forms that your field teams can quickly complete on mobile devices. Our software is available at no cost to humanitarian and volunteer disaster-relief organizations via Fulcrum Community.

About the author

Donayle is the Fulcrum Community Advocate, providing leadership and direction of Spatial Networks’ philanthropic vision.

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