Share these three thoughts with students:
Most disasters are fast, sudden and unexpected.
Those affected by a disaster or emergency urgently want information. They want to know about continuing risks, location of help and safe areas. Those organising aid also urgently want information. They want to be able to assess the needs accurately and calculate the best way of locating priority cases and delivering help to them quickly.
Electronic technology, from mobile phones to emails, blogs, instant messaging and social networking are communication methods that are fast, responsive and increasingly available.
Invite students to use the third thought to explore ways of delivering timely information to those involved in disasters. What would be useful, and what wouldn't be, in different situations?
1. In a university campus shooting, like the Virginia Tech massacre.
How might students have been alerted between the first shootings and the second wave two hours later?
2. In an earthquake that strikes in the middle of the night.
How might the emergency services be alerted to the injured who need help? How might survivors let family know that they are OK?
3. When there is an epidemic of a contagious disease.
How might people be warned to stay away from school and work? How would the authorities know who needed hospitalisation or other medical treatment?
4. When an armed conflict breaks out and civilians need to know where to go for safety.
How might civilians find out how far the conflict extends and which areas might be relatively quiet?
Encourage the use of all methods that young people know about – websites, texting, emails. Social networking services like MySpace, Facebook or Twitter may be new to teachers. Welcome this. Ask students to share what they know about the possibilities and limitations of different technologies, and acknowledge that wise teachers do not claim to know everything.
Invite students to critique their plans, and devise solutions to problems such as verifying identity and dealing with false alarms or hoaxes. In what situations might the internet not be a viable option? Can they think of more traditional methods of communication that might work?
This activity was written by PJ White and published in July 2007.