Feb 12 2015

How One Nonprofit Uses Tech to Assist During Natural Disasters and Emergencies

From drones to codes and apps, FIT has been using innovation to help out in emergency situations.

Drones have been making headlines for their potential business uses in areas like logistics and retail, but would you be surprised to learn that drones have been used to assist in natural disasters?

The Field Innovation Team (FIT), a recently formed nonprofit that’s been doing incredible things with technology to help with disaster and emergency relief, has done just that.

“Back last spring, we flew an AirRobot 100-B with our partners in Texas. And we flew it over a mudslide that happened in Washington state,” said FIT Chief Wrangler Desiree Matel-Anderson in an interview with Forbes contributor Devin Thorpe. “In that drone flight, … we gave that imagery to the incident command. They then subsequently took that and were able to use that as situational awareness for the rest of the recovery efforts.”

For Hurricane Sandy, FIT had volunteers putting up mesh networks, which helped increase wireless bandwidth and communications, which are essential during a disaster. This increased bandwidth and access helps people get in touch with their loved ones during a crisis.

Other projects the FIT team has been involved in include partnering with the Drupal Conference to develop housing and ride-sharing apps for tornado survivors in Oklahoma and helping FEMA to redesign its Disaster Recovery Centers, according to a report from Forbes.

Technology is often seen as a vehicle for enhancing productivity, increasing operating profits and automating unglamorous tasks, but FIT’s mission to use technology to improve disaster and emergency recovery could truly save lives.

“I want people to understand the importance that it hits all of us. Disasters know no bounds,” Matel-Anderson told Thorpe.


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