Like most Canadians, and I suspect people world-wide, I’ve been following the horrible progress of the fire in Fort McMurray. There is a family connection here and we were so happy to know that they made it to Edmonton.
You never realize how big or horrific the situation is until you live it. This article from the Hamilton Spectator helps put things into perspective. “Crews scramble as Fort McMurray fire explodes in size“. It’s from a few days ago and the winds have changed and different areas are now affected. But, this map from the article was quite shocking to me. I’ve driven through that area many times and can get a sense of the size now.
Thanks, Hamilton Spectator
This interactive map in this article shows the extent in Fort McMurray itself but doesn’t necessarily have the context for me. “Fort McMurray fire interactive map: NASA data shows fire invading town (Updated)“.
Google also presents a way to see the situation in a Crisis Map.
Recently, I had a discussion about disasters with some friends online. The discussion also included notifications on your phone or other devices to warn you when things are impending. I think everyone has a weather application on their phone or other device. Do you have notifications turned on just in case something is impending?
If your’e looking for something more inclusive, check out the “Be Ready” app from the Canadian Red Cross.
There is a great deal of background information about being prepared and advice about what to do in the various situations. Living where I do, tornados and their associated warnings are a reality every spring and summer. But, as you look through the app, you’ll see that there are many scenarios covered. It’s really worth downloading and installing. Test yourself with the quizzes to make sure that you really understand.
In schools, we all have binders given to us on the first day of school outlining emergency situations and what to do. Students have the materials in their provided agendas and it is typically covered and forgotten. Parents might see it when they come home. Just to remind us of the importance, you might have one or two fire drills during the year. We always got advance notice.
But, what happens when it really happens. You need to read this story and it will warm the heart of every teacher. It truly shows dedication to students. “When evacuation was ordered, Fort McMurray principal fled with busload of students“. But put yourself in the shoes of the parents for a minute. In a panic, you rush to the school to pick up your kids and see a note on the door letting you know that they’ve left and where they’re headed.
It’s a perfect and admirable solution given the available tools.
Could it be better?
How about with technology?
What if, instead of a paper agenda with the details for emergencies, students and parents were given an application for their phone or devices instead? The resources could be updated electronically as needed as opposed to yearly in the printed document. When disasters happen, the principal could push a notification out to the parents instead of leaving a note on the school door. In the case of the fires this time around, what if the wind had shifted making the planned destination unreachable and parents went to the wrong location? From the principal’s own device, updates could be pushed as they became a reality.
At the same time as this, there was another local reality with a perceived threat at a local school. How do you contact the parents / students involved? You can’t necessarily rely on traditional media to get the details absolutely correct. In this case, the principal used the best tool that he had available and was tweeting out information to those who followed him and knew to look for it. Could the message have been received more effectively had it been pushed to every student/parent with an application on their devices? Absolutely.
In times of emergencies, people don’t always have the time or the planning to go to the web and look for the desired resource (assuming that it’s truly there and updated). Pushing that information from the source and getting it correct to everyone involved as quickly as possible makes a great deal of sense.
Combine it with the information from sources like “Be Ready” and the traditional school agenda makes sense to me. If there happen to be any developer across platforms looking for an opportunity, I really think there is one here.