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Volume 31, Issue 2

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The GAP in DR/BCP/EM Technology

Recently I attended a concert at my grandchildren’s school in a small, rural community in Upstate New York.  A small child in the row behind me was using what appeared to me to be a tablet computer. Amazed by the use of technology, even by very young children, I had thoughts of how widespread the use of sophisticated technology had become, even in remote areas.  There have been times when I felt government agencies and some businesses assumed the presence and use of technologies to be far greater than actual.  I challenged a DHS employee on the use of GIS and various mapping capabilities, stating that rural communities lacked such capabilities. He replied that his information was just the opposite, that the use of GIS and other mapping functions was very popular and widespread.

From my experience in rural counties, computing capacity is not as great as reported by the DHS.  This raises the question of capabilities of small and medium-sized businesses to use sophisticated systems often displayed in the DRJ exhibit hall and in articles about systems including rapid notification, GIS, and applications for emergency and business continuity planning and response.  Is preparedness as well equipped as we often assume?

I suspect small businesses are underprepared with business continuity technologies.  Some larger businesses may have the means to acquire such applications, but are not supporting their use and maintenance.  Larger government agencies seem to have the technology, but local governments, especially rural municipalities, have less. Awareness is lacking in some cases.  I met with an IT systems person at a rural county who had ESRI and the tools to do mapping and global positioning of such items as fire hydrants, but had no awareness of HAZUS-MH, the free natural hazard tool from FEMA for mitigation planning.

What I am suggesting is that there is a gap between those who are knowledgeable about new technologies for disaster recovery, preparedness, and business continuity and those who are less aware or unable to afford such technologies.  The danger is for the “haves” to assume that the “have nots” can keep up with preparedness, response and recovery efforts when disaster strikes.  The greatest gap is in public information.  We assume the public can receive a critical message, but many cannot. As we progress with technology, and we should, we cannot forget those who don’t have it.

And, by the way, the child sitting in the row behind me at the concert was playing with an Etch-a-Sketch.