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Hurricane Irene: Using Technology to Prepare and Clean Up

Hurricanes are notorious for disabling technology by cutting off electricity. In some cases, the threat of coming storms can overwhelm our phone systems and websites. But technology is also being used in new ways to prepare for and clean up after natural disasters, like hurricane Irene.

by / August 27, 2011

Hurricanes are notorious for disabling technology by cutting off electricity. In some cases, the threat of coming storms can overwhelm our phone systems and websites. But technology is also being used in new ways to prepare for and clean up after natural disasters, like Hurricane Irene.

As Hurricane Irene made landfall in North Carolina on Saturday morning, millions of people up and down the East Coast braced for the worst. Despite reports that the storm had weakened, thousands of people were already evacuated and others who stayed on the coast lost power. Prior to the storm, Major League Baseball rescheduled games.  New Jersey even closed casinos for only the third time ever.

What to do?

Many websites offer quick tips and checklists to help before, during and after such weather emergencies. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers this checklist which helps you decide: Are You Ready?

Advanced technology is used by the National Hurricane Center, the National Weather Service and other organizations to understand hurricanes and their impacts.  

The Seattle Times offered some tips for communicating during Irene and other similar emergencies.  For example: “Cellphone companies recommend text messaging rather than calling in any disaster, because text messages use much less network capacity. They also don't use much battery power. Using Facebook and Twitter can be tempting, but try to keep usage brief and use the apps rather than web browsers if possible, to minimize network use and battery drain.”

Fox News Business offered these: Apps and Websites to Help Brace for Irene. I especially like their list of people (actually organizations) to add to your Twitter feed, from FEMA to NOAA to the the Red Cross. offers these tips for recovering after hurricanes.

 Information Week reported on FEMA’s new mobile web app that can help during emergencies. I find this section to be very interesting:

   “FEMA built the application to work even when there is no mobile service so people can access the information they need to anytime on their device….

People can text PREPARE to 43362 (4FEMA) to sign up for monthly disaster safety tips; SHELTER+ their ZIP code to the same number to find the nearest shelter in their respective areas; and DRC and their ZIP code to the same number for information about the nearest disaster recovery center.”  

Government Actions:

  Governments up and down the East Coast have issued warnings, and they are implementing their preparation, evacuation & recovery plans. Offices of Public Safety are activating emergency centers and shelters, and information is being sent via a wide variety of channels, including new mobile web sources.

 For those who are not involved in the current Hurricane Irene emergency situation on the East Coast, teams are being sent from around the country to assist in the cleanup. Others are using this as an opportunity to stress hurricane readiness.

In summary, technology can help fight the negative impacts of hurricanes. Governments and citizens can learn the lessons from the past, and prepare for weather emergencies in new ways.

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Dan Lohrmann Chief Security Officer & Chief Strategist at Security Mentor Inc.

Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist, keynote speaker and author.

During his distinguished career, he has served global organizations in the public and private sectors in a variety of executive leadership capacities, receiving numerous national awards including: CSO of the Year, Public Official of the Year and Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leader.
Lohrmann led Michigan government’s cybersecurity and technology infrastructure teams from May 2002 to August 2014, including enterprisewide Chief Security Officer (CSO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) roles in Michigan.

He currently serves as the Chief Security Officer (CSO) and Chief Strategist for Security Mentor Inc. He is leading the development and implementation of Security Mentor’s industry-leading cyber training, consulting and workshops for end users, managers and executives in the public and private sectors. He has advised senior leaders at the White House, National Governors Association (NGA), National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO), U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), federal, state and local government agencies, Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and nonprofit institutions.

He has more than 30 years of experience in the computer industry, beginning his career with the National Security Agency. He worked for three years in England as a senior network engineer for Lockheed Martin (formerly Loral Aerospace) and for four years as a technical director for ManTech International in a US/UK military facility.

Lohrmann is the author of two books: Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web and BYOD for You: The Guide to Bring Your Own Device to Work. He has been a keynote speaker at global security and technology conferences from South Africa to Dubai and from Washington, D.C., to Moscow.

He holds a master's degree in computer science (CS) from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and a bachelor's degree in CS from Valparaiso University in Indiana.

Follow Lohrmann on Twitter at: @govcso

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