SXSW Interactive 2014

A Perfect Storm: Technology & Disaster Response


Over the past decade there have been 424 hurricanes worldwide, resulting in 165,000 fatalities. Ten of the 12 most costly hurricanes in U.S. history occurred during this time period—including Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Sandy in 2012, two of the most damaging storms of all time. It is clear we must do everything possible to ensure people are prepared, and receive support during and after a catastrophe. With new social and digital technologies emerging every day, developing the tools to educate the public about mitigation and preparedness, and being with them every step of the way when disaster strikes—virtually at least—is easier than ever.

Representatives from four non-profit and government organizations doing groundbreaking work in the area of emergency and disaster communications, will discuss how new technologies are creating innovative, engaging multimedia and mobile experiences that can significantly improve disaster preparedness and mitigation behavior.

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  1. Development: How can we best develop innovative, imaginative and effective strategies and technologies to encourage families and communities to be proactive about their safety before, during and after disasters?
  2. Deployment: What are the best uses of social/mobile technology to communicate preparedness and recovery information? Examples include the American Red Cross Hurricane App, which uses geo-location to help users monitor conditions and locate assistance during the entire storm; and the I.I.I.’s award-winning Know Your Plan mobile app, which helps users devise a blueprint to protect their family’s lives and property with customizable checklists that educate users about vital mitigation steps.
  3. Demonstration: Nobody wants to think about bad things happening to them. Can “edutainment”—such as “StormStruck,” an interactive, 4-D exhibit created by FLASH for Disney’s Epcot®—break through the reluctance to accept that disasters do happen and encourage people to take steps to prepare?
  4. Discussion: On the other hand, everybody loves to talk about the weather. How can we use the general interest in weather-related events to combat complacency and communicate the seriousness of safe behaviors—such as gathering the right supplies, or obeying an evacuation order—when the weather gets dangerous?
  5. Data: How can big data—such as that gathered by the Red Cross Digital Operations Center—help us get a better picture of events on the ground during a disaster, so that we can target our relief efforts to where they are needed most—and learn how to better prepare for the next catastrophe?



Andrea Basora, Senior Vice President, Digital Communications, Insurance Information Institute

Meta Information:

  • Event: Interactive
  • Format: Panel
  • Track: Policy and Civic Engagement
  • Track 2
  • Level: Intermediate

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