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A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness

Wireless Foundation Launches New Website With Very Useful, Simple Tips For Using Cell Phone/PDA In An Emergency — Government Preparedness Web Sites Should Add Immediately

August 18th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Readers of this blog know that I am a big advocate of the potential of personal technology in helping the public prepare for and respond to emergencies, whether they be small everyday incidents or major disasters. So, I am very happy to see that the Wireless Foundation, the Wireless Association’s charitable arm, has just created a terrific new section of their web site presenting the many ways your cell phone and personal digital assistant (ie. Blackberry, Treo) can help you and your family in an emergency. The Wireless Foundation’s initiative is called the VITA Advisories, and it was produced in association with Boston-based Preparedness 2.0 guru David Stephenson. It builds upon the Foundation’s work on the AMBER Alerts and other public safety wireless notification programs.

There are tips on how to prepare your wireless device in advance of an emergency and then how to use it when an incident occurs. As the site correctly points out: “With a little planning, you can be ready to use your phone when you need it the most.” And, in many families (like mine), kids actually can help teach their parents about this subject. I am adding the Vita Advisories to my site’s Resources and recommend that everyone with a wireless device take a look at the tips at 

I also would urge — and will do so personally when I have the opportunity — that every governmental and non-profit emergency preparedness site for the public should add these wireless tips immediately. There once were concerns about a digital divide when it came to wireless devices, but the proliferation of cell phones (the Wireless Association now estimates at over 260 million subscribers in the U.S. alone) means that should no longer be an obstacle. And in fact, the sheer number of users makes getting this information into people’s hands and phones even more important. Further, as cities and states increasingly develop email and text emergency alerts for their citizens, they need to better explain the great potential (and the limitations) of their personal communications technology in emergency situations. Creating a section on their websites with the tips listed in the Vita Advisories would be a great first step towards beginning that important education process. 

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Tags: Preparedness 2.0 · Preparedness Tips

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 W. David Stephenson // Aug 18, 2008 at 8:03 am

    Thanks John! This is a constantly-changing project, because of the constant innovations in the private sector regarding more powerful personal communication devices and applications to capitalize on them. To whit, today I’m taping a new YouTube video on Qik, which allows you to stream video to the web on a real-time basis. You can imagine how critical that could be providing real-time information to authorities in a fast-changing disaster.
    — David

  • 2 Memo To ‘Color Alert’ Task Force: Put Your Citizen Hats On, Design With/For Public, Integrate Into Overall Citizen Preparedness Program, Consider All-Hazards Approach (Maybe Starting With H1N1), Replace Changing Colors With Consistent Communic // Jul 22, 2009 at 10:25 am

    [...] * Meet The Press, ‘Old’ & ‘New’ – The explosion of media has great potential to amplify and make any governmental alert system far more effective. But the multifaceted distribution also means the government has to be far more nimble in presenting its alerts. The Task Force should reach out to top media, communications and technology minds in this space as well as companies for help (some are already creating alert platforms for users). And any alert rollout should include a public education campaign involving communications business groups like the Wireless Foundation showing citizens how they can both receive and provide … [...]

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