High-tech, low-tech, no-tech: communications strategies during blackouts
Solymossy, Diana Sun
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How do emergency managers communicate vital life-safety information when disaster strikes and the power goes out, sometimes for extended periods? Time and again, our power grid, aging and stretched beyond its intended capacity, has experienced failures. Power outages can quickly shift from being annoying to deadlyespecially when temperatures are extremeparticularly for elderly and other vulnerable populations. Emergency managers will be able to use the findings of this research to communicate critical information to the community, even in the direst circumstances, without relying on a techno-fix. A structured focused comparison of three disasters revealed that a high-tech, low-tech, no-tech framework can be implemented successfully and inexpensively. Throughout the three disasters studied, communications methods in the high-tech, low-tech, and no-tech areas were successful in communicating with the public. The thesis recommends that every community be prepared with this three-pronged approach. To go a step further, the study recommends that FEMA consider incorporating the high-low-no-tech approach into its COOP (Continuity of Operations Plan) template, which currently assumes that communications systemsphones, Internet, email, two-way radioswill be operational within 12 hours of activation, an optimistic assumption. A sample implementation plan with cost estimates is included.
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