Disaster experts believe there is a lot more we are capable of doing to avert natural calamities. The key lies in technology, specifically its applications in the disaster management and humanitarian sectors.

Even though we are physically powerless against natural disasters, we do have the power to anticipate them and predict how they will affect our environment.

Modern technology has equipped us with the ability to prepare for environmental calamities in ways our ancestors would have never imagined. Big data analytics, robotics, and enhanced connectivity prove to be surprisingly crucial in the harsh aftermath of a natural disaster, but it is their utilization in disaster prevention that genuinely reveals the tremendous potential technology holds when we face forces far beyond our control.

2011 Tōhoku Earthquake And Tsunami
2011 Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami. On 11 March 2011 Friday, at 14:46 with the local time (05:46 UTC), a massive undersea megathrust earthquake off the coast of Japan occurred. The earthquake triggered a massive tsunami with waves up to 40.5 meters (133 feet) high. On 10 March 2015, it was announced that the confirmed casualties were 15,894 deaths, 6,152 injured, and 2,562 people missing.

Using Data to Study Patterns in Natural Disasters

Data is essential in the detection and prevention of natural disasters, but it is also dynamic. This dynamism leads to the discovery of new information that can only be viewed when sets of data are compared.

Historian David Sepkoski explores this through the eyes of his father, who was part of a group of palaeontologists who painstakingly collected and classified data that would later aid them in the studying and correlation of fossils. Throughout the piece, Sepkoski shows how paleobiologists, who are initially skeptical about taking an analytical approach to the study of fossils, eventually come to call it a revolutionary method.

When collected over time, data can be used to study patterns, and through these patterns, we can make predictions. These predictions are what we then base our reactions on and in successful cases, damages caused by natural disasters can be significantly minimized, if not averted.


One particularly significant aspect of minimizing damage from natural calamities is learning how our infrastructure holds up in extreme environments. Data and analysis can only go so far in preparing us, especially since natural disasters tend to occur randomly. There is no way to accurately predict which parts of our infrastructure will suffer the most damage unless we visually explore the possibilities. Here, 3D city models can become vital tools.

From a 3D model, planners can learn where the city’s most important facilities are placed, so there is no confusion as to where rebuilding should start. Power plants, water facilities, underground plumbing, and electrical lines are crucial lifelines, and without them, reconstruction would be slow, if not impossible.

Likewise, they can see which areas would require emergency rescue services the most, perhaps due to large populations or limited access routes.

Computer-generated simulations give them even more insight into what the aftermath of a natural disaster would look like, and how they should respond to it. Here, they’ll be able to know which places should be evacuated before the disaster strikes and even where to set up temporary disaster centers to maximize rescue efforts in the affected areas.

Without this type of technology, it would be impossible to know where the disaster will hit the hardest, let alone figure out how to reduce its effects.

Risk Reduction

In the aftermath of a natural disaster, it is the first responders who often risk their lives to find and rescue survivors. When explored from a different angle, the risks they take to accomplish this are sometimes wholly unnecessary as technology has provided us with the means to make these situations less complicated.

For instance, if a team of first responders arrives at the scene with a 3D map of the positioning of the city’s utilities, they’re less likely to cut through power and gas lines when digging for survivors. Similarly, they will be able to know which places to consolidate first to avoid further damage from gas explosions and electrical faults.

This little bit of information is enough to prevent a dangerous situation from becoming worse.

Disaster Prediction

Hurricane Irma was a massive category five hurricane that blasted through the Atlantic Ocean in September of last year. Then, the necessary technology was available to predict its arrival and indeed its path as it left a trail of destruction that snaked through the Florida Keys-if those predictive weather technologies had not been available, millions of lives might have been lost.

Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, and although the hurricane was the most powerful to ever occur over the Atlantic Ocean, its after-effects weren’t as catastrophic as they would have been had the region not been evacuated in time.

Technology is still massively underutilized in disaster management, a problem that can be solved if governments take the incentive to incorporate it into their systems for preventing natural calamities. Though we may never be quite fully able to stave off these unprecedented acts of nature, we are more than capable of avoiding the carnage they leave behind.

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