As Haiti braces for Tropical Storm Emily, I can’t help but wonder if they have emergency communication networks in top order. I’d say an IVR notification system would be a good idea—I wonder if they’ve thought of it.
According to CNN, 12,000 United Nations peacekeepers are in Haiti waiting to deal with whatever Emily brings.
Keep in mind this is the tiny island nation (sharing the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic) that suffered a devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake just last year. There are still hundreds of thousands of displaced Haitians living in makeshift camps after the earthquake. The last thing they need is a tropical storm.
And Haiti doesn’t have the money or infrastructure at the moment to deal with another natural disaster (it’s a poor nation, and newly elected President Michel Martelly hasn’t formed his government yet, which complicates things further).
Haiti has low literacy rates (52% according to Wikipedia) and widespread poverty. Despite that, it’s a leading market in the Caribbean for mobile phones.
Of course the first thing that runs through my mind is how someone living in a shanty could afford or a cell phone, or how they could even charge one. But I imagine some make it work, especially if they had homes and the phone already before the earthquake. And they have jobs (maybe they charge it at work).
Beyond those living in the camps, though, more and more Haitians have mobile phones, which have become vital communication tools in other disasters.
During the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Japan earlier this year, mobile phones were essential to the search operations. They enabled rescue workers to find and stay in contact with survivors trapped under debris, and they helped survivors locate their loved ones.
There’s no telling what will happen in Haiti as Emily hits today. I haven’t seen anything saying they’re upgrading it to a hurricane yet, but it’ll be bad even if it isn’t—at least for the Haitians still displaced from last year’s quake.
Like I said, I’m not sure if they’ve considered an IVR notification system or even how effective it would be. But every little bit helps.