Tech helps volunteers save lives in storms

Published 9:36 pm Thursday, August 31, 2017

Technology is an amazing thing. Following the devastation in Houston and Southeast Texas, volunteers used a relatively new technology to coordinate their rescue efforts.

Volunteers with bass boats, jon boats, ski boats, canoes, kayaks and even inflatable rafts took to the water to help rescue stranded residents. Officials in several cities put a call out for boats and people responded by the hundreds. The Cajun Navy showed up in droves to help out, as did many others.

But coordinating those rescue efforts is a complicated task. Emergency officials were busy coordinating their own response, so the volunteers set up their own system. And in some ways, it may be more efficient than the official, government systems.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Volunteers are using an app called Zello to find victims and, in general, keep everyone on the same page. They are also using it to coordinate supply drops.

Dispatchers for the different volunteer groups are sending out rescue requests with addresses, phone numbers and medical info. Volunteers listening to the channel then respond to the address in a coordinated, instead of unorganized, way.

The app has no doubt made their rescue efforts easier, and has helped volunteers save lives.

Contrast that technology with the analog radios some cities in Mississippi are still using. In some places, Brookhaven included, local law enforcement agencies struggle to communicate due to outdated technology.

Obviously, a free app like Zello could never replace a full dispatch system for a law enforcement agency. But the technology is obviously there to improve the way agencies communicate.

The devastation in Southeast Texas has brought out the best in people. Volunteers have shown courage and selflessness in responding to people in need. In some ways, the storm has also brought out the best in emergency coordination. There will be many lessons learned in the aftermath of the storm. Hopefully, how emergency services can better coordinate will be on them.