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Getting Real Time Disaster Information

We’ve already seen the emergence of Google Public Alerts, and how you can register to get involved with supplying them with information.   This led some of you to ask about other public alert systems from which you can get information.

There are services you can buy, of course, which may provide you with the information you need, and monitoring news services gives you some of the information you might want.

But what about alert information that can be pushed to you?  We looked to see what we could find, consulted a LinkedIn group, and came up with a mixed bag of options.  None of them are perfect, but this is what we found:

We’ll recap on Google Public Alerts for those who missed it.  Google are using their Maps service to display information on geographically based incidents in progress.  They’re currently using information from NOAA, the US Weather Service and the US Geological Survey but they’ve put out a general call asking others to register if they’d like their information to be included.  It’s Google, so it’s likely that they’ll want to go very local as fast as possible.  At the moment it only covers the US, though there are roll out plans for the rest of the planet.

Google Public Alerts

 

The Global Disaster Alert and Co-ordination System (GDACS) says it’s put together by the United Nations, the European Commission and “disaster managers worldwide to improve alerts, information exchange and coordination in the first phase after major sudden onset disasters”.   At time of writing it’s listing earthquakes in the Phillippines at 5.8 magnitude, tropical cyclones Cyril and Jasmine, and floods in Greece, Bulgaria, Fiji, Australia and Mozambique.  If you use Twitter, you can follow @GDACS.

If you’re based in the US then the Department of Homeland Security has an RSS feed that it recommends you use to track it’s Security News.  RSS feeds are a great idea, but we don’t know many people or organisations that work with them in practice.  It seems to us you’d need a 24/7 monitoring system of all the feeds you’d be interested in and we don’t know many organisations that could cost justify that.   Furthermore, if you read their RSS feed there’s lots of information that isn’t at all urgent.  So if you’re looking for an alert system, we’d be tempted to skip this one.

Code Red is an alert system run by Emergency Communications Network on a commercial basis.  It offers push alert services to Governments, Higher Education, Utility Applications and Events.   If you’re in the US, it’s worth seeing if your local authorities have bought in to the system.  If so, you could approach the supplier to ensure your organisation contacts are included in the push notifications.

Code Red isn’t the only local alert system, and it’s really worth checking what your local authorities and emergency services provide.  For example, those interested in Queensland, Australia can sign up to QLD Alert.  If you’re in the UK there are a number of alert schemes including City of London, Birmingham,  Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Nottingham and Sheffield.  In Alberta, Canada there’s the Alberta Emergency Alert system, sponsored by the government and you may also follow them on Twitter at @AB_EmergAlert.

Of course, if you’ve got a very specific issue to monitor, you’re more likely to find a specialist group that will deliver that information than if you’re looking for more general data.

For example, Hisz Rsoe is an earthquake monitoring system run by Edis in Hungary.  It covers all continents; you just have to select the right map from their homepage.  Their motto is, “Nothing happens unexpectedly, everything has an inidication, we just have to observe the connection.”  We checked their alert maps for Europe and,  apparently, the red circle in Spain is apparently a 2.5 magnitude earthquake that’s happening there now (10 Feb 2012).

earthquake alerts system

Got any more ideas about getting disaster information?

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