Global unrest this year and natural disasters such as the recent tornado in Kentucky, USA have reminded us that war, natural disasters, and other emergencies are very real. According to recent research, there has been an increase in natural disasters on a global scale by ten times in recent years. In 2021 alone, several natural disasters have occurred in unexpected places as a result of our planet’s changing temperatures. While it’s easy to get caught up in worrying about the future—the devastating effects of global warming are here and need to be dealt with now. Fortunately, there are many steps cities and urban communities can take to better prepare for future emergencies with the help of IoT technology.
IoT is an invaluable asset in emergency planning and disaster management. While most think of IoT solutions as engineering or too technical to implement, their easy design and everyday applications are much easier to understand. IoT solutions are designed for automation, accurate data collection, and quick response. IoT works in many ways in emergency planning, such as measuring threats that are often difficult to monitor, alerting authorities at critical stages, and sharing relevant data to mitigate risk in other areas.
Below is a deeper dive into how IoT works for each of these emergency planning applications.
1. Collect data to predict or prevent future emergencies.
IoT is infamous for its quick and efficient data capture abilities. This happens to be a crucial component in disaster preparedness and mitigating potential risks. IoT sensors can be used to capture and relay highly accurate, timely information to authorities ahead of time so that emergencies don’t go undetected and there’s time to take action and prevent potential emergencies.
IoT devices can measure real-time data and physical environment parameters in events such as earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanic activity, and cloudbursts. These IoT devices include sensors that can monitor air quality, temperature, and water levels.
In some cases, such as wildfires, sensors can even go as far as detecting where and how fast the fire is spreading. Take, for example, this early forest fire detection tool that uses a radio-acoustic sounding system to continuously monitor a forest space and alert early detection of wildfires.
With IoT, authorities can efficiently monitor critical infrastructure for potential risks, plan and conduct predictive maintenance and act before disaster strikes.
2. Keep communities informed and connected.
In emergencies, public access to information is vital – and sometimes means life or death. IoT can also be used to increase public safety simply by creating more responsive and centralized communication systems with IoT. These systems, for example, could connect IoT sensors deployed in the environment with residents’ devices. This would allow residents to text a public hotline about places to avoid in the case of flooding or fire and create a map of high-risk areas. Data-based communication systems like this help ensure that critical information can reach the right people, especially when traditional channels may not be reliable.
Automated IoT systems are also used in emergencies to send out alerts, news, and resources to keep the public informed. These can alert the public to where a tornado has touched down, or fire is spreading and share important resources for how to stay safe, find shelter, or evacuate.
3. Coordinate and share data between relevant authorities.
Public safety often depends on the actions of those in charge, such as local governments, agencies, first responders, and other authorities. These groups need to have an eye on the situation at all times so they can provide the best response possible to mitigate further risk. To do this, these groups must be able to coordinate and share information, which will help teams to better strategize and execute the right emergency responses. Response teams, government officials, and specialists need access to secure communication lines that transmit instructions for responding to emergencies.
For example, first responders need actionable information and IoT can help keep these teams connected through the use of sensors to monitor the movement of key personnel and IoT-enabled cameras to monitor the incident on the ground. First responders and firefighters can also be outfitted with IoT sensors that keep track of their vital signs and conditions and are supported by drones and vehicles to help keep them safe from dangerous situations.
IoT technology can’t prevent natural disasters from happening, but it can help us mitigate, prepare and respond to these disasters. Through the use of IoT technologies communities can better respond to emergencies they will surely face in the coming years.
About the author: Carl Erick Rowan is a well-rounded Electronics Engineer who dedicates his time to evangelizing IoT technology. He is currently the Technical Documentation Lead at RAKwireless – an industry-leading company powering IoT infrastructures with high-quality hardware.