Individual Resilience: Smartphone Crisis Response & Other stories


Can Technology Be Our Saviour in Times of Crisis?

As an organisational resilience consultancy, our blogs often focus on how companies respond to a crisis or how vital it is that all required teams have knowledge of continuity plans, but today we are focusing on the individual. After all, that is what teams are made up of.

You’d be hard pushed to have missed the wildfire chaos currently taking hold of Australia or the volcanic eruptions in the Philippines, Mexico and White Island, New Zealand.

Do enough of us know what to do if we are caught up in such an event?

However you feel about the accusations of humanity being stalked by tech organisations for the wrong reasons, technology has also proved itself as an aid in times of need.

Communication is essential during an emergency, and there are numerous crisis/emergency response applications, on a company and country level.

Emergency Alert Australia, for example, is an emergency communications scheme set up by the Australian Commonwealth Government as a result from the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009. The system sends both SMS messages and pre-recorded sound messages with information regarding the danger and is currently seeing a lot of use, particularly in Victoria and New South Wales.

Similarly, Wireless Emergency Alerts system is America’s examples launched in 2012 to warn the public about dangerous weather, tornado, missing children, and other critical situations. People receive geographically specific text messages informing about perilous situations.

But what about the individual? How can smartphones either get them help or allow them to be part of the help effort?

Enter Google.

Google Crisis Response For Crisis Management

It is a thing, not an instruction.  Love it or hate it the tech giant plays an important part in most peoples’ lives.  Having the global power of Google (other tech giants are available) at our fingertips lets us navigate unfamiliar places, cheat at pub quizzes and find hilarious cat videos with barely any effort but have you thought about how Google can help you in a crisis?  Google has.

The Inverroy team regularly support a client with their operations in Mexico and were recently involved in the national earthquake drill,  we were therefore interested in this article that demonstrates how Google Crisis Response helped those dealing with the aftermath of an actual earthquake in Mexico City. 

We’ve been exploring Google Crisis Response and will explain some of its capabilities below:

SOS and Public Alerts

The screenshot below shows a current public alert for a winter storm in the USA.  In addition to details about the alert, it also provides advice on how to prepare and stay safe as well as relevant Tweets that may assist those in the area.  Looking at a number of alerts across the globe it appears that this functionality is being used to good effect by a number of national and regional response organisations, with up-to-date links and contact details in an easy to access format.


Connecting People

The initial response to any emergency is often well supported by emergency services, government agencies, the military and major non-profit organisations.  The challenge comes when rebuilding services, providing long-term support to communities and managing the associated logistical challenge. Google Crisis Response is one tool that may allow volunteers and smaller organisations to assist with this phase by providing details of specialist personnel who can assist.  This, combined with accurate location information, can greatly assist in delivering the skills required to the right place as effectively as possible.


Providing Information

One of the most vulnerable systems during a disaster event is the data network.  Google Crisis Response has the ability to install local Wi-Fi or GSM systems to provide connectivity to displaced people as well as the teams working to assist them.   In addition to the obvious benefits of restoring contact between friends and families this also allows support organisations to communicate rapidly and accurately with large numbers of people who may not be co-located.

The Mexico earthquake article also provided the following advice that has been developed by Google in partnership with the Red Cross.  We’ve examined their utility and support their use – not just when a crisis happens but also in advance so that life is just a little easier if it does.

The likes of Apple and Samsung are dipping their toe in the water as well, while the emergency call has long been a feature of many smartphones, do you have your SOS alerts and medical alerts set up? An SOS alert can send your location to a predetermined number (i.e. mum, dad, significant other) so they can get to you, medical alerts can tell medics of any allergies or pre-existing conditions if you are unable to communicate in person

In conclusion, it is clear that Google Crisis Response is a developing capability and may not yet have been fully embraced in your location.  It obviously also relies on access to a suitable device to access the information so isn’t a perfect solution but we recommend that you keep an eye on how it develops and how it might be useful to you, both personally and professionally. 

Wherever we advocate technology, we also advocate keeping it simple and having a workable back-up, just in case – do you have a hard copy of your key contacts in your purse/wallet or on your desktop just in case Google/Apple/Samsung/smartphone provider of choice isn’t able to help?


Other stories of smartphone saviours:

Of course, there are other applications which have proved their worth in saving lives. Some entrepreneurs have been inspired by unique events of people saved by technology. This is the case of a saved woman’s life in China after falling in a bank. She was diagnosed with a few broken ribs that were supposed to heal soon. However, her husband’s suspicion led him to the idea of taking photos on his mobile and sending them over to their son, who contacted another doctor. After careful examination, it appeared that this woman had a punctured lung that could have caused a fatality. The full potential of mobile phones is yet to be fully developed for medical purposes but the first trials have already been launched such as  ‘’ comprising “medical selfies”.

Take, Austin Bohanan, for example, a 15 year old boy from Tennessee who went hiking on an off-trail route in the remote southwest corner of the area. He got lost in the mountains and without a phone signal. Austin spent 11 days trying to find his way back while searchers were looking for him. On the 11th day, the boy decided to turn his phone on and check if he can get a GPS signal. For 11 days he tried to find his way home. Luckily, Google Maps led him to a back-country area known as Tabcat Creek where he was found.


About the Author:


Stuart Armstrong. AFNI.

Senior Consultant, Inverroy.
Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute.
Sector Lead: Food & Drink

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