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Emergency management: There’s an app for that

Tuesday, May 06, 2014 2:48 PM | Deleted user
Technology is constantly improving and changing not only our risks but also how we approach crisis and emergency situations. Social media has made a huge impact on how emergency communications are managed, mobile technology is changing how we do our jobs too, and that includes apps.

Recently, John Hopkins launched two new emergency preparedness apps: Surge and Flucast The apps are designed to help hospitals and clinics prepare for health emergencies and other disasters. The free tools are already being used and tested by Texas A&M, FEMA Region 1, a few state health and emergency planning departments including Washington and Oregon. So what exactly are these new apps?


Surge is an app that helps hospitals predict what capacity might look like in the event of a disaster. The app simulates the number of arrivals and discharges, predicts the number of beds that may be used. App users can see the numbers played out in different disaster scenarios and try different strategies to alleviate capacity stress. Factors that can be changed include the number of beds in the hospital and what ailments require priority treatment.


The Flucast app uses Google Flu Trends data, hospital locations and a history of flu trends to forecast the week’s flu cases. The app also pulls statewide information. Fluecasts functions as a surveillance tool and also helps hospitals and clinics predict increases in visits due to influenza and prepare for it.

Crisis can be tough on the brain, any outside help we can get from technology is nice. However, will relying on apps that may fail actually hurt us? Because of mobile technology, we’ve already lost the need to remember phone numbers, potentially hindering communication when cell phones are down. Will relying on emergency preparedness apps actually make people less likely to adequately prepare? Hopefully not.

The apps developed by John Hopkins are a huge advancement in emergency preparedness. They are meant to be used as planning tools, not in-field response tools.  If used well, they will help hospitals and clinics prepare and be able to better respond when emergencies do happen by helping them imagine scenarios they may not have considered.   

Are you using an emergency preparedness app? How have they improved your emergency response?

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