In Natural Disasters, A Disability Can Be A Death Sentence

Citizen science: crowdsourcing data to support disaster response

NASA uses innovative methods to integrate science from a variety of sources which is used not only as a method for integrating community-level information, but also as a method to verify satellite data on the ground (groundtruthing).

You’ve probably never heard of ‘groundtruthing’—the term isn’t widely known outside of scientific circles—but the concept it describes is quietly transforming how communities respond to disasters. Groundtruthing essentially means fact-checking data from satellites that only orbit the earth once a day. In a fast-moving environmental emergency, such as landslides or volcanic explosions, data needs to be updated every minute—not every day. Enter the citizen scientist.

“Citizen science is definitely happening,” said Jason Jabbour, Regional Coordinator and Senior Science Advisor at UN Environment. “It has enormous potential.” With so much of the developing world under the age of 30, the smartphone has opened up possibilities for the sharing of data as never before. With the advent of 5G technologies in major cities worldwide, this trend will only accelerate…


In Natural Disasters, A Disability Can Be A Death Sentence

Several of the 88 people killed in the Camp fire that devastated Butte County, California, in November had disabilities.

Their deaths were only the latest example of a tragic reality: When disaster strikes, people with disabilities are disproportionately affected. There are no statistics that show how many disabled people in the U.S. say they could easily evacuate in an emergency, but around the world, just 20 percent of disabled people say they would be able to do so. And only 31 percent said they would have someone to help them in an emergency, according to a 2013 United Nations global survey.

Surviving a disaster is a complicated process for disabled people, with barriers every step of the way. For visually and hearing impaired people, even being alerted to an emergency isn’t as simple as it is for everyone else. For physically disabled and low-mobility individuals, a quick evacuation is extremely difficult, if not impossible ― especially in a natural disaster like the Camp fire, which raged…

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