Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Handling Future Katrinas--Ideas

As a bureaucrat and experienced Monday morning quarterback, I've some ideas on how FEMA/DHS should handle future disasters. First, I'd acquire ID packages--consisting of a digital camera and laptop with software to work with RFID ID bracelets. Each operative in the field would, as soon as possible (ideally when they first rescue people, etc.) snap digital pictures of the person, provide them with a RFID ID bracelet, and record a conversation with them (hopefully giving name, address, and similar info). The software would associate the ID bracelet to the picture and to the location, such data to be uploaded to a central database when wireless data communications are available.

[updated--published too fast] The recorded conversations could be transcribed into a database that could be matched against public information.

The bottomline is that as the bureaucracy kicks into gear with the provision of emergency help: grants, loans, shelter, whatever, the processing center can read the ID bracelet and match the person to the data in the database. This has many benefits:
  1. Finding lost children and reuniting families--because everyone is in the database with some sort of identification (even if only 1-year infant found near X), people could be speedily reunited. That would save much effort and more emotional strain.
  2. Avoiding fraud--while there could still be fraud it would remove the biggest causes of abuse in Katrina.
  3. Providing information--you'd have a much faster flow of more accurate information as to the extent of the disaster and its impact. That means much better management of relief efforts.
Given the spread of digital equipment, the biggest problem is probably getting people together to agree on the standards for the bracelets, the picture, the recorded conversation, and the database.


George Buddy said...

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about taking FEMA back out and independent like it was before. It seems to me that part of the problem is that the layers of bureaucracy helped to obscure FEMA within that DHS (which itself be broken up in my view)and thus created conditions where Michael Brown could be appointed to that post. I couldn't see such an appointment happening prior to DHS.

What do you think, if anything?

Bill Harshaw said...

George--I've some thoughts that I think I'll put in a separate post.