Next-gen tech improving emergency preparedness and response
By TM ONE
From drones to data, here are some ways that governments have harnessed technology to enhance emergency response strategies.
With each technological advance, governments are taking the opportunity to consider reviewing and adopting their response strategies. Data and the increasingly sophisticated analytics is proven to be one of the fundamental keys to support more effective and faster response tools to governments and support agencies.
Here are some examples of how tech is helping faster recovery for citizens in Asia.
Malaysia’s Covid-19 app
In March 2020, just three months after Covid-19 first reached Malaysia, the government released a mobile application to help check and control the spread of the disease. With the MySejahtera app, citizens monitor their own health status, and receive latest updates on the pandemic status.
The app groups citizens into categories based on their risk level of contracting Covid-19, and informs them of the next steps. For instance, those under surveillance will have to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days, while those at high risk must get tested at designated hospitals.
MySejahtera also serves as a contact tracing app. Citizens scan a QR code before they enter a premise or any public place, and the system logs where they have visited in the last 14 days. Users can also register family members who don’t have a smartphone.
The app supports teleconsultations, so that patients can speak with a doctor without having to leave their home. This helps them to stay safe, and eases demands on healthcare services.
Citizens can also plan safer routes with the app’s hotspot tracker. The system taps machine learning capabilities to identify a possible sources of infection for each confirmed case, and maps it geographically, Dr Mahesh Appannan, Senior Principal Assistant Director of the Disease Control Division at Malaysia’s Ministry of Health told GovInsider.
Disaster alert systems keep citizens informed
Managing impact from natural disasters relies greatly on early warning systems and maintaining a continual flow of information.
In the Indian state of Odisha, geoclimatic conditions lead to frequent natural calamities such as droughts, floods, cyclones, and unseasonal rain. Odisha has faced 17 large natural disasters in the past 20 years.
In 2019, the Odisha State Disaster Mitigation Authority developed “SATARK” (System for Assessing, Tracking and Alerting Disaster Risk Information based on Dynamic Risk Knowledge) in collaboration with the Bangkok-based Regional Integrated Multi-hazard Early Warning System. This mobile application provides automated early warning and real-time information about hazards such as lightning, heatwaves, cyclones, drought, and floods.
SATARK integrates different forms of data from national and international agencies to provide location-specific alerts. Drawing upon historical patterns, SATARK provides users with easily understandable advisories for their specific scenarios, underlining the state government’s guidelines about what they need to do before, during, and after disasters. To enhance user understanding, information is provided in both Odia and English.
The SATARK system also allows users to provide feedback about forecast accuracy in their area, and uses machine learning algorithms to improve upon its advisory generation process. This information improves citizens’ disaster-preparedness, which could prove critical in their ability to minimise losses and injuries during calamities.
In Malaysia, TM ONE, the public sector and enterprise business solutions arm of Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM), collaborated with the Royal Malaysian Navy and ICT company, Acasia, to develop Kesedaran Keselamatan Komuniti Maritim (K3M) or Maritime Community Security and Safety Awareness. This is a web app and a mobile app to deliver early warning and real time maritime hazard alerts.
The K3M app is connected to various maritime authorities, and available for widespread use including commercial shipping companies, tourism operators, fishermen, and maritime recreational users. Users can also make emergency SOS calls that are routed to a Naval Operation Centre, which will coordinate assistance.
Enhanced training systems for effective crime engagement
The Singapore Police Force (SPF) is increasingly adopting technology-driven systems to help officers optimise their training and to maximise success when engaging with suspects.
In 2019, the SPF adopted the Range Enhanced Liver Firing Range System, a training aid that provides detailed information to officers during marksmanship practice. This system analyses each shooter’s posture, breathing, gaze fixation and weapons-handling to supply real-time suggestions, helping officers improve the accuracy of subsequent shots.
The SPF also introduced the Impact Measurement Trainer, a training system to improve the self-defence skills of police trainees. The training system makes use of force sensors in mannequins to precisely measure the location and strength of users’ strikes, then provides instant feedback for trainees to improve their techniques.
Such smart systems turn specific data into actionable insights for officers, improving training efficiency to ensure that police officers are able to effectively respond to conflicts.
Using cloud to support search and rescue operations
Meanwhile, Malaysian emergency response authorities are using cloud computing platforms to improve search and rescue (SAR) operations. Working together with TM ONE, the emergency response agencies use the Search and Rescue Operation Coordination System (SAROCS) to support the planning, execution, management and coordination of SAR activities during an emergency.
In SAR operations, comprehensive and timely information is critical. The cloud-based SAROCS enables data from multiple devices and systems to be integrated onto a single platform, allowing multiple SAR agencies to access crucial data to facilitate an operation remotely. The solution is equipped with a mobile application, which allows users connect to a secure Internet connection and access the main system database, providing on-the-go information to the users. For example, it can provide tracking information to the Rescue Coordination Centre to facilitate the deployment monitoring of search and rescue units by SAR coordinator.
When SAROCS is hosted in the cloud, the search and rescue units can benefit from advanced analytics and artificial intelligence-assisted capabilities powered by cloud to successfully facilitate an operation. For example, they can simulate or forecast oceanography and meteorological data to improve their understanding of search area conditions, which are essential in SAR operations.
The cloud in particular is playing a fundamental role in managing emergency response strategies at scale. While no government can guarantee to stop an emergency, the harnessing of technologies, including cloud, to gather and analyse massive amounts of information in real-time will equip citizens and professionals to be more prepared for crises, respond more effectively and rapidly during emergency situations, minimise the impact of disasters, as well as improve recovery results.