Feds Seek Facebook App, Tools For Disaster Prep

As Hurricane Irene looms, federal agencies seek new applications and technology to help people better prepare for emergencies.
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As Hurricane Irene threatens the New England Coast, federal agencies are seeking new applications and technology--including an emergency-support app for Facebook--to help people better prepare for emergencies.

Given the fact that the United States has faced nine disasters so far this year—each with an economic loss of $1 billion or more--the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) are seeking better applications and other technology to help people during those catastrophic events.

The HHS's Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) aims to use Facebook for its medium to use an application to connect people during an emergency.

Through its Lifeline Facebook Application Challenge, the agency is asking developers to create a Facebook application that can be used on mobile devices as well to connect with other people during emergencies to help them survive the event and also recover after.

"ASPR challenges you to help improve community resilience by designing a Facebook application that makes it easy for people to create their own emergency support network and provides users with useful tools in preparing for and responding to emergencies," according to a website about the challenge.

The application HHS is seeking should help people follow four steps during an emergency: identify three Facebook friends who can be "lifelines"; complete a personal preparedness plan; share the plan with those lifelines; and share the lifeline application with others.

NOAA's interest is more weather related, given the agency's mission to provide weather and ecological forecasting, among other tasks. The agency is partnering with other agencies, researchers, and the private sector to create a more "weather-ready" nation, it said.

The plan includes using technology to improve the precision of weather and water forecasts and to effectively communicate risk to local authorities, according to the agency.

NOAA also is eyeing broader use of innovations in science and technology, such as the nationwide implementation of Dual Polarization radar technology, Integrated Water Resources Science and Services, and the Joint Polar Satellite System, it said.

Additionally, NOAA will work in specific regions of the United States--such as the Gulf Coast, South, and mid-Atlantic--to pilot community-based projects for better ecological forecasting and emergency response to address the impact of extreme weather, it said.

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