A 21st century disaster can rely almost as heavily on digital volunteers as those willing to pick up a shovel and dig someone out from under a fallen building, according to a disaster researcher at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.
But digital volunteers, people who can work virtually to connect first responders and aid workers to people who need help, can be more effective if they have access to information controlled by governments and military, Jeanette Sutton, senior research associate, UCCS Trauma, Health and Hazards Center said.
In an effort to better coordinate resources and improve understanding, UCCS will bring together experts in disaster response May 25 and 26 for the “Information Technology and Humanitarian Disaster Relief Workshop.” For the first time, representatives from the military, leading academics and volunteer technical experts will share information during two days of panel discussions and workshops.
“When traditional infrastructure was destroyed in Haiti in 2010, people were still able to use their phones,” Sutton said. “A digital volunteer who might be hundreds of miles away ¬ but with access to information ¬ can provide assistance via online networked technology and can be as valuable in a disaster as a first responder with an axe.”
The Trauma Health and Hazards Center hosted workshop will put top U.S. Northern Command and U.S. State Department officials in the same room as leaders of organizations such as Geeks without Bounds, Crisis Mappers and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. While representing different agencies with varying level of authority, each shares a similar goal of wanting to provide assistance in the event of a disaster, Sutton said.
The May 25 keynote speaker,James Terbush, captain, U.S. Navy, is the fleet surgeon commander for the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and Commander, U.S. Fourth Fleet. Captain Terbush is the principle medical adviser to the commander on all health service support issues of deployed naval forces and coordinates medical humanitarian missions in the Caribbean, South and Central America. In 28 years of government service, Captain Terbush has served in more than 80 countries as the physician to forward-deployed U.S. personnel. He is an honors graduate of Colorado State University and the University of Colorado School of Health Sciences.
For more information about the conference, visit http://www.uccs.edu/~thhc/HADRTech.html.
The Trauma Health and Hazards Center at UCCS is part of the National Institute of Science, Space and Security Centers. Other centers include the Center for Homeland Security, the Center for Space Studies, and the Center for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education.
UCCS, located on Austin Bluffs Parkway in Colorado Springs, is one of the fastest growing universities in the nation. The University offers 36 bachelor’s degrees, 19 master’s, and five doctoral degrees. The campus enrolls about 9,000 students annually.