Dorian: A Tale of Technology, Time and a Treacherous Storm

Dorian: A Tale of Technology, Time and a Treacherous Storm

September’s National Preparedness Month was met with the fury of Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds as high as 185 miles per hour. Dorian terrified everyone in its path. Storm surges covered entire houses. Despite early warnings and many preparations, lives were still lost, communities destroyed, and the people of the Bahamas were left with a long road ahead to rebuild their communities. Most of us living on islands and coastal areas of the world are accustomed to heavy storms, hurricanes, and other difficult weather conditions that tend to visit our communities during the hurricane season. We accept the inconvenience as a tradeoff for the constant beauty of the sun and ocean we enjoy year-round. It is a part of life for us, and a reminder of how quickly life can change.

National Preparedness Month

As the season approached, we were bombarded by television commercials, radio announcements and other communications that reminded us to be prepared; to make sure we had everything we needed in place to respond when and if a hurricane occurred. Preparation at my house changed quickly when my college-aged daughter and several of her classmates had to evacuate their campuses. This meant I opened my doors for several students during the storm. Like my neighbors, I went to the store and bought cases of water, food, and other necessities to get us through the storm. The store experience was a wild one, to say the least, with people frantically grabbing cases of water (the store had a limit of two cases per family).

Empty grocery shelves from customers preparing for Dorian
Empty grocery shelves from customers preparing for Dorian

The bread shelves were literally empty by the time I got there and this was a full week before the storm was supposed to hit Florida. It was crazy! Gas lines wrapped around the corner, attitudes were running high — you could tell people were scared. No matter how many cases of water you had, how many non-perishable food items, flashlights, or generators — that fear is inevitable. No one knew what to expect and everyone knows we cannot truly predict what Mother Nature will do or exactly when she will do it. Yet, technology is definitely making predictions more accurate and easier for the masses to understand. That became more evident as the storm moved along extremely slowly through the Caribbean, wreaking havoc on the islands. It was as if Dorian had taken a vacation in the Bahamas, hovering over the island for days.

Bahamians escaping the wrath of Dorian
Bahamians escaping the wrath of Dorian

Meanwhile, those of us stateside were becoming more impatient by the second, awaiting the terror to hit Florida and watching it devastate the Bahamas. Our first responders had evacuated as many people as possible, the shelters were fully occupied, utility trucks were lined up and ready to go. Yet no Dorian for days; it was as if it was playing a hide-and-seek game with us. It was mind-boggling watching the many maps on the news charting Dorian’s path using geospatial technology, radar imagery, pictures and yes, the spaghetti lines.

It was absolute chaos listening to the many reports, desperate videos, and the scientific opinions of climate and meteorologists suggesting what Dorian might, could, and would possibly do.

An aerial view shows a destroyed home on Grand Bahama Island
An aerial view shows a destroyed home on Grand Bahama Island

The constant news reports weighed on everyone, but a few things kept me sane. I had done my due diligence: in my house, we had all the necessities in place and an emergency plan if evacuation was necessary. The gold was in knowing that the company I worked for had also played a small hand in protecting the Bahamas, Florida and other states affected through our Fulcrum Community initiative.

A few weeks ago, our Fulcrum platform was center stage at Nethope’s Disaster Response Training, which hosted Team Rubicon, Google, Amazon, and other technology companies. It warmed my heart to see those organizations with Fulcrum in hand and responding to the Bahamas after Dorian. Their preparation is now helping to reestablish internet connectivity and rescue efforts throughout the island. Using Fulcrum, these organizations are able to communicate in real time, quickly assess the damage and respond to those most in need in an organized and coordinated manner. This made me happy and definitely made me feel safer.

As they began to check in and let us know that they would be working in the Bahamas, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, I knew we were ready. Every day they are adding more volunteers to support their efforts who are trained to respond in these conditions and know the best ways to provide resources and medical supplies to affected residents after a storm like Dorian. The resiliency of people is beautiful to experience and even more amazing when you’re a part of their survival.

We can’t stop hurricanes and other natural disasters from happening, but we can continue to improve how we prepare and respond to them. We’re proud of our Fulcrum Ready partners and hoping for a speedy recovery for all affected by Hurricane Dorian.

Photo credits: AP (Ramon Espinosa), Reuters (Joe Skipper)

About the author

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

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