Perspectives of Emergency Mobile Tech Behaviors in the USA

A writing this from VA Beach, VA on Friday, before Hurricane Irene gets in town. I was here for the second funeral for my cousin. What has been really interesting around my family is noticing how some have let previous communication channels govern how they respond to present emergency situations.

For example, only one of my relatives has subscribed to the emergency text messaging service that the area offers. Granted, her comments about the system have been ovwhelmingly negative, still that points to issues.

Other relatives have totally avoided going to the web to get information about emergency/evacuation notices and such, choosing to wait for the radio or even the ‘X’ o’clock news for updates. They dont recall that entities such as the National Weather Service, or even their government websites, would have this informaiton sooner than a broadcast.

Now, I personally watch the satellite images from NOAA (see pic) and can ‘read’ the fronts and movement of things in addition to scouring the web and radio. I have also made all kinds of fun attempts to track traffic and gas-line patterns since before coming down here. I’m simply trying to use what I know to stay a step on or ahead of things.

What I haven’t done well is plan for emergency locations for me to go, or a better emergency route (there aren’t many from here). That part of things I’ve had to rely on friends and family members who have been here and know what kinds of weather effects I would expect. Some are resilient, some are stuck here (that worries me), and others, like my mom, have places to go but those places are a weary drive into areas that may also have some hurricane effects.

And it’s at all of this that I can say that mobile fails. It’s not really mobile, it’s behavior and expectations. For example, I would expect that carriers would have made agreements with the FCC and local governments to send emergency messages such as evacutation notices or even MMS pictures of flood zones and evacuation routes when these situations happen without someone needing a subscription.

Or better, wouldn’t it be great if mapping services (Nokia Maps, Google Maps, etc) had their mobile apps connected to emergency services so that you could not only get notifications of emergencies pushed to your device(s) but can see on a map effected areas, evacuation routes, shelters, and maybe even send snippets of that info to yor family members who might not have those services on their mobile?

I’d expect that if people lived in coastal areas, that they would have mobiles that are similar to those I’ve seen in Japan: waterproof (rain and small moments of submersion), digital broadcast receivers, and solid enough cameras so that people could record their items skillfully for insurance and records purposes (no, you don’t need an app for that).

I’d expect that people would have an old mobile an prepay SIM card handy as a backup. Or, at least get to a place and know how to purchase that quickly (and then use SMS not voice to keep in touch with loved ones). I don’t think Facebook is a good idea initially for emergency communications, but like Twitter, it would help much from a mobile to just have available the necessary "FYI" kind of features.

We don’t see that though. We see people more like my relatives who don’t think about charging items, having a solar or car charger, or even using the digital and alalog services to stay on top of things. Yes, having water, flashlights, generators, and such are very important. We should probably add mobile/web to this as well. Else, it’s not really mobile nor enabling. And probably, it should be washed away from our lives.

Lord willing, when this posts, I’ll be in a dry-like place. I hope to God that all in Irene-effected areas are able to get to safe, secure, and powered areas. Especially those who might have no self-enabled means of transportation.