Best Practices Emergency Communications
Following the Virginia earthquake last month, many people experienced difficulty contacting friends and family over the phone or through text messages. Despite the continuing increase in cell phone capacity around the world, repeated crises have shown that cell phone circuits are likely to be saturated quickly, even if the underlying infrastructure is undamaged. If you can't get through on a cell, recommend the following alternatives:
- Text messages (via personal phone, or government phone if yours is configured for that option) usually will get through (they did even after the tsunami in Indonesia), but recent experience in the US suggests even text message channels can get saturated.
- Landlines may be less congested than cell phones.
- Social media options:
- Twitter: DHS, Verizon and Sprint had success in reaching the public via Twitter immediately after the quake.
- Facebook or chat rooms: These can be used for posting messages to whatever audience you'd like ("I'm OK," "Meet me at...")
- Smart phone apps, such as Life360 application - http://www.life360.com/ (there are several others) - are designed to help individuals contact family members to let them know they are okay or alert emergency workers if they are in trouble with the push of a button, even if networks are inundated with traffic. The app tries several times a second to find a free circuit via the company's infrastructure
- Skype: calls or chat messages can be exchanged via Skype (or similar "Voice over Internet Protocol" (VOIP) services) if the software has been installed on a computer or smart phone.
The future is here--Additive Manufacturing!
Last month researchers from Virginia Tech visited National Defense University to discuss Additive Manufacturing (also known as 3-D printing), a process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data. While the technology has been around for some time it has gained a lot of buzz through recent articles in the Economist. Through Additive Manufacturing it is possible to create medical implants, car parts, jewelry and some companies are even using the technology to create custom made chocolates. While this state of the art technology has the ability to transform the manufacturing industry there are serious implications in regards to security, patent laws, and uses in the developing world.
For more about this technology check out Virginia Tech's DREAMS lab
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