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Episode #9

Tech Key to Rebuilding After Disasters Like Sandy

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Two weeks after Sandy hit the New York region, is the recovery coming along as fast it could?

In the city's tech community, some are pondering this question, including Andrew Rasiej.  He's the chairman of the 28,000-member New York Tech MeetUp.

Soon after the storm, the group helped launch New York Tech Responds, a website to coordinate the tech community's response to help in the relief efforts.

Rasiej tells New Tech City that there is more that can be done to prepare in advance of natural disasters.  He argues that technology shouldn’t be seen as part of the solution, but as integral to the rebuilding in New York City.

“The city still thinks of technology for the most part as a slice of the pie and what we need the city to understand is that technology is actually the pan that actually supports everything else the city does.”

Hosted by:

Manoush Zomorodi

Editors:

Charlie Herman
US Open Blimp

The Future of Disaster Relief: Food, Water, Shelter…and Wi-Fi Blimps?

Using technology to get communities back on their feet faster after a crisis might include floating blimps with wi-fi over a disaster-hit city or creating a National Guard of tech geeks to take action when the digital infrastructure goes down or maybe even stockpiling electronics and generators for tech reserves, similar to oil reserves.

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Comments [4]

Sandra Levy from Goshen, NY

When Hurricane Sandy crashed into the east coast of the United States leaving widespread damage in its path millions of business users experienced disruptions in the wake of the storm. In the midst of this catastrophic event, many healthcare providers were able to continue vital patient care and keep essential communication flowing with cloud Electronic Medical Record Software (EMR) on the Internet.

One medical practice, Ear, Nose & Throat Solutions in Nutley, NJ, is in a building with several practices where power was out. They were the only practice that was able to maintain business as usual via the Cloud EMR. They saw patients, communicated with patients, and had access to patients'records.

The inability to provide care to patients in the immediate aftermath of a storm can have a devastating impact on a patient’s health, especially if they are taking medications. WRS enabled practices all over the east coast to send electronic prescriptions to many pharmacies including Target and CVS.

In ravaged Rockland County, NY, numerous medical practices were unable to operate due to power outages. Dr. Richard Gordon, M.D., at Ophthalmology Associates in Pomona, was able to maintain patient care, as usual through WRS cloud software, answering patient questions, accessing data and refilling Rxs.

Where and when will another storm hit? It’s anyone’s guess. One thing is clear: Physicians who implement a cloud EMR are in a better position to weather a storm and to provide better patient care no matter what Mother Nature brings.

Nov. 13 2012 11:56 AM
Bayes from NYC

I am a CTO. Let me just comment that to technologists like Andrew R everything in the world is a byte to fit into a tech solution and that's an issue. The problem we have here is the balance between infrastructure and cost and applying common sense. The grid is the issue because after every big storm we always get the same propaganda..."The grid will be better after this." I chatted with with a Con Ed exec who was a power engineer I know they never got to the point that they wanted to be. The issue is not only economics but also political. Infrastructure improvement should be written about as much as the fiscal cliff. If not, we'll all repeat this over and over and isn't this another definition of madness?

Nov. 13 2012 11:16 AM
Rob Weisberg from Hoboken, NJ

Regarding tech in the IMMEDIATE aftermath (or during) a crisis event: This topic came up late in the interview - but in Hoboken where we were flooded in to our apts with no electric, no cell, no wi-fi day 1 after the storm, we had zero local info. And the idea of people at the point of crisi being 'first responders'mentioned earlier in the interview wasn't possible. We do need either (A) some kind of back-up free wi-fi whether it's floating blimps or some other method. AND / OR (B) we need some old-school analog communication network.

Actually one thing I suggest, at least for 1-way analog information dissemination in the immediate wake of a crisis: Why not use the AM radio band for microstations that could have information for local municipalities - similar to the way airports or highways sometimes direct you to tune into an AM frequency for info? The Emergency Alert System used by the NWS for storm alerts could be used to direct radio listeners to those frequencies.

Nov. 13 2012 08:05 AM
Mark Schubin from Manhattan

I think the database for the displaced is a great idea, but, as for the rest, please don't forget older, reliable technologies, like radio, wired telephones, newspapers, and physical libraries.

The only time WNYC-FM failed me during the storm was when it directed me to an evacuation zone web site that I couldn't access; fortunately, The New York Times printed a map. The Times also reported on a French tourist calling home from a public phone and getting news of power restoration that he relayed to the long line of people waiting to use the phone. Wired telephones are powered by high-capacity batteries at the telephone-company central office; smartphones need to be charged somewhere. We hosted refugees from powerless areas at our apartment.

Another "somewhere" that was available to them was the New York Public Library, which opened branches rapidly--even in hard-hit Staten Island--using local librarians who could get in. The libraries provided a warm, dry place to sit, with power, light, internet access (and computers to use it), things to read, and increased programming for students whose schools were closed.

A blimp providing WiFi? Great idea! In storm winds? I don't think so.

So, sure, let's use new technologies to the fullest, but let's not forget the old technologies that work when all else fails.

Nov. 13 2012 07:38 AM

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