The world is responding to provide recovery and relief to the people of Nepal after the devastating earthquake this past week. Hundreds of governments, emergency services and disaster relief agencies are responding with their expertise, whether on the ground, in the air or in the digital universe. These type of disasters are big, messy and are nothing short of total chaos across all spectrums of the affected area. Data analytics and quality tool solutions are now playing huge roles in disaster relief.

These data initiatives took seed in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake of 2010 and the Tohuku earthquake and tsunami of 2011. After these great disasters, the US and Japanese governments began joint initiatives to implement data programs that were practical and workable, to ease the toll on victims and increase relief efforts. At the same time, crowdsourced efforts began to develop data driven programs on every possible area involved in a disaster, such as real time mapping, where gas and other resources would be available for use in disaster relief. The International Red Cross also got involved after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, to provide a volunteer network that performed data analytics on satellite data, that gleaned real time information on mapping and the areas impacted by the disaster. This allowed agencies to support relief efforts in the hardest hit areas first.
The four key elements of any disaster management situations are prevention, preparation, response and recovery. Data and digital initiatives have the direct ability to provide immediate support and impact across all four of these areas. Digital sources supply information to these efforts from satellites, smartphones, UAVs, and social media. As an example, during the 2010 Haiti earthquake the US Marines were immediately sent in to begin relief and aid efforts. Mapping and data tools provided them valuable real time information that the Marines considered “hugely helpful” at the least.
It is hard to predict the location and scope of these disasters in the future, but with ongoing initiatives and new insights gained from previous experience, data analytics and digital information will continue to play a significant role in these relief efforts.
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