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Technology in Disaster Management and Recovery: Types and Impact

April 14, 2024

Landslides, tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes — these are just a few examples of disasters that have a significant impact on land, property, and civilian lives. According to a recent article in Forbes, natural disasters cost the United States approximately $165B in 2022. Hurricane Ian alone was responsible for nearly $113B in damages in September 2022.

However, the true impact of disasters is far more evident when looking at them in the long term. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, 341 events (approximately 8 per year) have been categorized as disasters since 1980. So far, these events have cost 15,821 lives and approximately $2.4 trillion in damages.

Considering the impact disasters have from both a financial standpoint and on the nation’s mortality rate, several organizations and sectors of government are redoubling their efforts in terms of emergency preparedness, including establishing and implementing an effective disaster communication plan. Technology in disaster management and recovery will also continue to play a key role in overall preparedness, enabling first responders to do their jobs more efficiently while mitigating loss of human life.

What Is Disaster Management and Recovery?

The actions involved with disaster management and recovery aim to reduce vulnerabilities associated with disasters, enhance resiliency, and mitigate the event’s overall impact. Disaster management and recovery can be broken down into three main phases:

  1. The actions taken beforehand to prepare for a disaster
  2. The actions taken during a disaster in accord with the response plan
  3. The actions taken after the disaster that are specific to relief and recovery

All three phases have commonalities. First, they contain a human element that focuses on the strategy and response of one or more phases. For example, the response protocols for a hurricane are created using human intelligence, experience, insight, and skill. 

A second commonality is that each phase has tools and technology that support it. A mobile application devoted to severe weather, for instance, is an example of technology in disaster management that aids those whose goal is to keep the public informed with the latest severe storm information. A storm siren merely alerts the public of an incoming storm; while applicable mobile apps track the path of the storm, its severity, and which areas of the country it will impact in real time.  

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Types of Disasters

Not all disasters are the same, which means that communities, states, and entire regions must always be prepared for a multitude of different types of disasters. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) refers to this as the National Preparedness Goal. The types of disasters FEMA identifies as posing the greatest risk include:

  • Natural disasters: These may include floods, winter storms, wildfires, droughts, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, hailstorms, volcanic eruptions, avalanches, and climate change-related disasters. Specific tools and technology are used to predict, track, and estimate the severity of naturally-occurring events.
  • Cyberattacks: These may involve attacks on information technology systems that can lead to financial system failures, power grid failures, loss of connectivity, loss of critical infrastructure systems, and national security and public safety risks. Cybersecurity is the countermeasure that individuals, organizations, financial institutions, and branches of government put in place to ward off cyberattacks.  
  • Terrorist attacks: Terrorist cells and lone-actor terrorists are constant threats to the nation, threatening harm that uses weapons of mass destruction, improvised explosives, and armed technologies meant to take human life and instill fear. Counterterrorism measures make use of technology and human resources to track and respond to terrorist threats.
  • Human-made hazards: Human-made hazards are those that come about through negligence, error, preventable failure, or ill intent. Examples include environmental degradation; arson; rioting; violent crime; domestic terrorism; industrial or technological incidents; and disruptions in services pertaining to communications, water, food, and travel.
  • Chemical spills: Chemical spills are the unplanned and uncontrolled release of dangerous chemical substances that can affect soil, oxygen, natural wildlife, and civilians. For instance, the recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, resulted in approximately 1.6 million pounds of hazardous chemicals impacting the community. Currently, several different types of software and technologies exist to respond to chemical spills.
  • Disease pandemics: Pandemic-level influenza, COVID-19 and its variants, and other infectious diseases can result in millions of lives lost in addition to the economic toll taken on a nation. Furthermore, some infectious diseases also affect animals.

Disasters known as complex emergencies occur as a combination of human-made and naturally-occurring elements. Complex emergencies include displaced populations, armed conflicts, epidemics, food insecurity, negative economic and/or societal impact, and breakdowns in civil authority.

2022 Weather-Related Disasters in the U.S.

The real-world numbers speak for themselves: In 2022, the United States experienced 11 severe storm events, three tropical cyclone events, one winter storm event, one wildfire event, one flooding event, and one drought event. 

However, it’s important to note that certain types of disasters are more likely to occur in specific regions of the country.

For instance, each of the three tropical cyclone events transpired in the southeast region near Florida. From a disaster management and recovery standpoint, the Southeast is far more concerned with tropical cyclones and less concerned with wildfires, droughts, and winter storm events. This means the Southeast is more invested in emergency management technology for tropical cyclones since this region is statistically more prone to that threat.

Technology in Disaster Management and Recovery

The technology in emergency management and tools for disaster recovery include an array of hardware, software, and resources that are used by responders, scientists, and analysts in different phases of disaster preparedness and response.  


A seismograph records ground motion during an earthquake. Currently, earthquakes cannot be predicted as accurately as many other naturally-occurring events. However, predictions can be estimated using data, probabilities, as well as forecasts using the seismic activity of the region and other mathematical factors.

Advanced Hurricane and Tropical Cyclone Forecasting

A significant part of preparing for and enduring hurricanes and tropical cyclones involves the use of technology, forecasting tools, and observational methodologies. These resources are useful in predicting the size, structure, intensity, and projected landfall and path of an event.

The National Hurricane Center uses buoys, radar, ships, reconnaissance aircraft, satellites, and land-based platforms to collect information that tracks and predicts hurricanes. Tropical cyclones, on the other hand, are tracked and predicted by ocean-based remote measurements using satellites. The advanced warning technology better allows people to prepare their homes, secure their property, and evacuate, if necessary.

Sensor Network System

Used to detect activity in bridges and roads, sensor network systems provide continuous data pertaining to the integrity of the piece of infrastructure in question and adjacent elements that can affect it, such as rising water levels relating to floods. 

These network systems enable authorities to conduct real-time analysis on sensor-outfitted infrastructure. They also qualify as one of the disaster recovery technologies because they can provide data on compromised infrastructure, which is key in determining which bridges and roads can be safely accessed.


The Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations software is a suite of environmental software tools that help in the preparation and response to a variety of chemical and oil-related emergencies. CAMEO is considered one of the most comprehensive pieces of emergency management technology currently in use.


General NOAA Operational Modeling Environment — GNOME, for short — is software that is used during oil and toxic chemical spills. It uses intelligent modeling to predict how pollutants will move and spread on water, which is critical to keeping them contained.


Areal Locations of Hazardous Atmospheres — ALOHA, for short — is similar to GNOME in that it tracks pollutants. It estimates how airborne toxins and pollutants may move through the air once they have been released. This critical information allows civilians in the path of the airborne toxin time to prepare or evacuate.


The Chemical Aquatic Fate and Effects software program allows responders and analysts to assess how much harm to marine life may occur as the result of an oil or chemical spill.

ESI Maps

Environmental Sensitivity Index maps display a summary of the coastal resources that are in harm’s way if an oil or chemical spill were to occur.


Response Options Calculator software predicts how spilled oil will degrade and change over a period of time. It also provides information pertaining to how much oil may be recovered, treated, or burned, depending on the situation. Out of all the disaster recovery methods, this technology is critical in determining how much of a resource can be salvaged versus how much of it must be eliminated.

Virtual Reality

A significant part of disaster preparedness is ensuring that responders have the training to handle high-intensity situations. Until recently, options have been limited, focusing on creating drills and emergency training scenarios that are authentic. However, with the rollout of a new technology in disaster preparedness — virtual reality training — responders now have a system that provides them with a lifelike representation of what a disaster really looks like, along with multiple disasters to train on.


During the rise of COVID-19, telehealth became an effective way for health care facilities and hospitals to mitigate the spread of the disease by delivering primary care services remotely. Further, intelligent chatbots were created that could provide an initial patient diagnosis based on the symptoms shared by the patient. 

Even after the introduction of the COVID vaccine and the significant reduction in COVID cases, telehealth remains a safe and convenient way to deliver healthcare services in non-pandemic scenarios.


The detection of explosives and firearms to counter terrorism — DEXTER, for short — is a new way to detect firearms and explosives in highly trafficked public areas, such as subway stations, airports, and large-crowd venues. The first successful testing of the DEXTER technology was recently completed in Rome. It is expected that NATO will continue to roll out this tool as a primary method of counterterrorism.  

Mobile Applications

Mobile applications have been a key part of technology in disaster emergency management and preparedness. The American Red Cross offers an array of free mobile apps devoted to emergency alerts and response. People have access to more than 30 customizable weather alerts and safety tips as well as useful information for 14 disasters and emergencies. 

Further, there are several free disaster apps available courtesy of WeatherCaster, Storm Distance Tracker, QuakeFeed, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), My Hurricane Tracker, FEMA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Social Media

Over the past decade and more, social media has been playing a more significant role in the monitoring, response, and recovery efforts pertaining to disasters. Facebook, for instance, has a natural disaster page that offers information and updates on developing situations. Facebook also has check-in pages where people can post their safety status. Additionally, the platform offers ways to donate to people who have been impacted by disasters, which helps with the overall relief effort. 

Disaster Database Management Systems

These computer systems are dedicated to the storage, manipulation, and retrieval of disaster-based data that can be used for creating a disaster information network and disaster information software. The information can be used by members of FEMA and other disaster response professionals for sending out mass warnings to vulnerable regions and for properly calculating relief funds for a specific impacted area. 

Another advantage of these systems is that the data can be visualized using graphs, tables, and thematic maps.

Management Information System (MIS)

When implementing an MIS to establish a Disaster Information Network and Disaster Support System, the data can be used for hazard mapping, such as flood prone area maps, cyclone and wind hazard maps, and seismic hazard maps. MIS can also be used to provide a housing stock vulnerability table for applicable districts and regions.

Remote Sensing

Remote sensing is the scientific practice of obtaining information about the Earth’s surface without direct contact. Instead, it is accomplished through sensing and recording emitted or reflected energy, which can provide useful insights pertaining to natural disasters that may occur.


Drone technology has proven to be an effective way to survey the damage to areas that have been impacted by earthquakes or other disasters before sending in human emergency response teams. By using drones, first responders can more easily locate survivors and gather useful footage that allows them to plan the best route of response and rescue. 

Further, drones can be outfitted with technology that allows them to scan and create 3D maps and renderings of buildings. These renderings can be used by rescue teams when a site has been compromised to better gauge its structural integrity.

GPS tracking

By using GPS tracking, first responders can be prevented from entering the direct path of a disaster, such as a wildfire. GPS tracking on cars can be used to show which roads and highways have been compromised and which are still passable. This is highly useful technology in disaster management when first responders are deciding which routes are safe to take in their emergency vehicles.

Short Message System (SMS)

SMS, an older technology, is supported by every smartphone and cellular device by default. SMS is built to handle significantly large amounts of messages when internet service is down. This means that SMS is the most effective and efficient method of sending out emergency-related mass communications.


Cybersecurity protects computer systems and information technology networks from attacks carried out by cyber criminals. Having cybersecurity systems and response protocols helps mitigate the chances of cyber criminals accessing, destroying, changing, corrupting, or otherwise compromising sensitive data and information. Not having these measures in place can lead to significant damage and disruption of normal business practices.

Leverage Technology in Emergency Management

Disaster management and recovery is a complex, multi-tiered process that involves several different government and non-government organizations working in concert. Through cooperation, effective planning, and using the most advanced tools and technologies, loss of life and property damage can be mitigated for entire regions of the country.

Some disasters, however — such as public health threats — aren’t limited to weather patterns or certain areas of the world. As we’ve witnessed in the past, viruses and diseases know no bounds, which is why it’s equally important to be prepared for public health crises.

If you are ready to become part of the solution, the best next step is to find the right educational path to pursue. The Online Master of Public Health in Disaster Management degree program offered at Tulane University could be an excellent choice. Students learn to apply scientific principles to disaster management, clear and effective disaster communication, and several other concepts and skills relevant to public and environmental health.

Learn more about the program — and begin your journey to a career in the public health sector of disaster management and recovery.

Advance Your Public Health Career with an MPH in Disaster Management

Pursue Your Degree Online From Tulane University
Find Out More

Recommended Readings

Community Health Promotion in Rural Areas

Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue

Tips for Accident Prevention in the Workplace


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Allied Universal, “How Technology is Changing Disaster Management”

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Cisco, “What Is Cybersecurity?”

FEMA, National Disaster Recovery Framework

FEMA, National Disaster Recovery Framework (Second Edition)

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