Al-Sherbaz, A. and Dravid, R. (2012) Utilising mobile mesh networks for disaster management. In: Svensson, J. (ed.) Proceedings M4D 2012. New Delhi, India: Karlstad University Studies. 9789170634079. p. 441.
Disaster management process involves two phases: pre-disaster, which includes mitigation/preparedness and post-disaster that includes response and recovery. The latter deals with mobilising support, services and resources. The post-disaster management requires overall quick response from police, paramedics and anti-terrorist squad as well as specialist disaster recovery teams, available onsite and offsite, and are classified as first responders and control centre respectively in this abstract. The model proposed in the research addresses preparedness, response and recovery stages of disaster management. The four major entities – people in the disaster area, hereby called victims, specialist application on mobile phones, hereby called, iSurvive, onsite specialist disaster management team, the first responders and offsite specialist team, the control centre, communicate using ubiquitous wireless and mobile communication technologies to address various stages in disaster management. As part of preparedness phase of pre-disaster management, people subscribing to iSurvive application would have their profiles available on a web-based system, accessible at control centre. The mobile application, iSurvive, initiated by victims, would kick- start a communication process using wireless and mobile communication technologies from GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth and GSM, that would help to set up ad-hoc networks using functioning mobile phones within disaster area. These networks, which are self-configurable, would facilitate two-way communication within the disaster area and with control centre and first responders, using instructions, messages, images and videos. The control centre would also provide services, such as data validation, monitoring and logging of communication using iSurvive application to guide first responders and victims. During the recovery phase, after the connection between victims and first responders are established, data from within disaster area is gathered by first responders to pass on control centre for analysis and validation, guidance and instructions. The control centre would use the information received from disaster area to track victims’ profile, already available on web-based system, for purposes such as contacting next of kin etc. As effective disaster response demands rapid access to reliable and accurate data and capacity to access, analyse and integrate information from varied sources, the security breach and misuse of communication in such networks pose a potential challenge and cannot be undermined. The reliability in communication process would be incorporated using data validation and authentication. As panic under disaster and emergency situations adversely affects normal human responses, other major challenge for mobile application design would be to make it user-friendly to guide victims under panic through series of guided steps. Other systemic challenges to address would include battery life and signal strength of these devices. As versatile mobile disaster management application is far from reality. While the proposed application would serve disaster situations, such as, earthquakes, floods; additional extensions for security of communications in the proposed system would be necessary to deal with disaster situations involving terrorist attacks.