In the last few years we have seen a new area emerge within informatics. This new technology can contribute to prevent, prepare, respond and recover from emergencies. At this point, unmanned systems, wireless networks, computing, social networking and other similar information technologies can revolutionize response and recovery from disasters like the recent earthquake in Japan.
The result of applying emergency informatics to disasters can lead to cutting deaths and economic downtime by half. By increasing the accuracy of the damaged location and its state, informing responders on where to search for victims can become easier. A faster availability of information may also improve decision making.
On the one hand, simulations and probabilistic algorithms as well as embedded sensors and sensor networks can provide better initial projections of damage and social and environmental vulnerability. On the other hand, fast networks with high capacity and crowd sourcing can provide real-time observations.
Policy-directed technologies can help in decision making, while socially-directed technologies can minimize victims and social vulnerability. But Emergency Informatics does not only cover big disasters, it also covers local emergencies by introducing, for example, smart ambulances.
Seen the importance this field has on life, economy and the environment, several organizations are trying to find sufficient funding to develop new emergency informatics technologies. Nevertheless, it is difficult for policy-directed agencies to invest in socially-directed information technologies, no matter how many disasters humanity has experienced in the last few years. Informatics can make a change, and it is up to us to take the reins towards a better world. To do this, informatics knowledge is obvious, but we must be able to combine it with expertise in other areas. Therefore, Emergency Informatics becomes a bright new challenge we must face up with, as it implies an everyday effort for self-improvement.