[Air-l] "911.gov" -- Social Networks + Disaster Relief

Alexis Turner subbies at redheadedstepchild.org
Wed Feb 21 11:15:13 PST 2007

On Wed, 21 Feb 2007, Frank Thomas wrote:

::Two basic questions:
::1/ How will an emergency community response grid work when it is based 
::on Internet websites and the electricity supply breaks down ?

I've heard of a pretty amazing, advanced technology called a generator.  I've 
heard of another one called a hand crank.

::2/ At which level of traffic do Internet servers crash because of 
::overload? In the old telecom times telephone routers in residential 
::areas in Europe were saturated when 8% of all customers in the area 
::called at the same time. Call centres for fire brigades, the police, 
::etc. crashed when called on more than 80% of incoming lines.
::In emergency situations you have to scale down to the basics. One of the 
::basics is : the less dependent on technological networks you are the 
::more probable you survive.

You have presented a scenario where dependence on technology is 
nearly complete, but I do not believe that is a prerequisiste for 
using technology in disaster situations.  There is a difference between complete 
dependence and partial dependence...or even no dependence, but simply 
"assistance."  There is a reason the French adore their pigeons as I 
recall....it was an ingenious solution to being cut off from the rest of the world, 
and I see no real difference between turning to pigeons to carry messages and 
turning to a temporary, small, mobile network when phone lines and electricity 
are down, the bridges are out, and no help is coming.  It's amazing what a 
satellite phone and a generator can do.

Now, I will happily grant you that having an entire, large scale deployed 
system consisting of thousands of systems requiring terrabytes of data transfer 
and on which everything else hinges is almost certainly doomed to fail.  But 
that doesn't mean that all technological systems are doomed to fail.  They are 
but one tool in the toolbox, and the more tools one has, the more adaptable 
they are.

::It would be interesting to know if the researchers mentioned in the 
::articles conceived their model with people living in New Orleans. A 
::close look on the living conditions of those who did not survive might 
::protect against a too strong belief in technology.

A close look at the living conditions of those who did not survive might protect 
against too strong a belief in good race and class relations in America.  
Assuming you were referring to levees as technology, then it 
might also protect against a belief in a technology that has been consistently 
and repeatedly shown to be failing and/or a belief in the efficacy of the Army 
Corps of Engineers.  But I fail to see how a concern about those things somehow 
expands itself to include all technology, period.  You are taking some specific 
technologies and expanding their failures to all technologies.

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