Warning, mitigating, rescuing

Technology – an asset for disaster prevention and relief

By Claire Marchand

Natural disasters strike at regular intervals on our planet. As their number seems to be increasing over the years, numerous measures have been taken, at the national, regional or international level, to help prevent them or to mitigate their impact.

drone for disaster relief Drones are increasingly used in disaster relief missions to drop food or medical supplies to remote and devastated areas (Image: simulyze.com)

Natural disasters on the increase

Every year has its lot of hurricanes hitting coastal communities, landslides, earthquakes and tsunamis leaving huge areas totally devastated or blizzards icing in towns and villages. They are all headline news material. Natural disasters can strike anywhere in the world at any time. Many experts point the finger at climate change for the increased intensity of storms, flooding and drought that affect millions of people throughout the world. 

Preventive measures are taken on both the domestic and international levels, designed to provide permanent protection from disasters. Not all disasters, particularly natural ones, can be prevented, but the risk of loss of life and injury can be mitigated with good evacuation plans, environmental planning and design standards. 

Technology to the rescue

Technological advances also play a major role in the way we apprehend disaster preparedness and relief. Landslide, earthquake or tsunami warning systems can help authorities take necessary measures to evacuate a specific area well in advance of their occurrence. Drones can run reconnaissance missions in disaster areas and, among other things, spot stranded people and make food and medical supply drops to remote and isolated areas. Open-source portable telecom tower can help restore telecommunications and rescuers wearing exoskeletons can search through and clear heavy rubble, often saving many lives in the process. 

In many cases, populations hit by natural disaster also have to deal with aggravating issues such as power outages on a large scale. When the electricity supply goes, it affects healthcare, clean water, safe food, sanitation, lights, to name but a few of the consequences associated with power cuts, and makes recovery even harder. 

The IEC, a valuable partner in disaster risk prevention and mitigation

IEC standardization and conformity assessment work plays an important role in reducing risk and avoiding major disasters by: 

  • preparing International Standards with built-in safety mechanisms. Nearly 60 IEC Standards directly support risk assessment and help reduce or avoid risk of disasters resulting from power failure.
  • facilitating recovery through reliable alarm and emergency systems, which are built to resist failure during extreme conditions.
  • providing four IEC Conformity Assessment Systems which enable the verification and certification that systems and products perform as they should. 

The IEC White Paper Microgrids for disaster preparedness and recovery considers what needs to be done in anticipation of major electricity outages as well as for post-disaster recovery.

Gallery
landslide warning system A Wireline extensometer monitoring slope displacement and transmitting data remotely via radio or Wi-Fi. In situ or strategically deployed extensometers may be used to provide early warning of a potential landslide (Photo: Jfoster7991/Wikipedia)
drone for humanitarian aid Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly used in disaster relief missions to drop food... (Photo: FSD
drone for disaster relief ...or medical supplies to remote areas that would be difficult to access otherwise (Image: simulyze.com)
Claire Marchand, Managing Editor e-tech Claire Marchand, Managing Editor e-tech