Mobile Devices Support Oklahoma Tornado Disaster Emergency Response

Mobile Devices Support Oklahoma Tornado Disaster Emergency Response
Mobile Devices Support Oklahoma Tornado Disaster Emergency Response

Mobile Devices Support Oklahoma Tornado Disaster Emergency Response

May 31, 2013 by Dr. Pamela McCauley Bush

The use of mobile devices has revolutionized the way the emergency management community prepares, communicates, and responds to natural and man-made disasters. Mobile devices significantly increase the efficiency, rate, and accuracy of communication, in a real-time manner. The excellent decisions made within the minutes leading up to, during, and immediately after the Oklahoma tornadoes were clearly supported by quality information and the use of mobile communication technologies.

Oklahoma Tornado Disaster from a Personal View

With my parents, daughter, siblings, and extended family in Oklahoma City and Moore, this disaster had an overwhelming personal impact on me. After finding out that they were all safe, despite the loss of my niece and her husband’s home in Moore, my attention turned to the emergency management response. As a researcher with National Science Foundation funded research on mobile devices in emergency management, I was encouraged to know these powerful and readily-available technologies would be used to support the Oklahoma City community.

Worldwide View of Oklahoma Tornado Disaster

The horrific and devastating nature of the EF-5 tornadoes that struck Oklahoma City and Moore were seen, heard – and essentially “experienced” by the world, in real-time, on May 20, 2013. According to Karlyn Carnahan, an analyst with Novarica: “The impact of the devastating storms was mitigated through the use of mobile technology which saved many lives as the emergency alert system has switched largely to cell phones, giving people time to find shelter.”

Oklahoma Tornado Disaster

UCF Human Factors in Disaster Management Research Team

This is consistent with research by the University of Central Florida Human Factors in Disaster Management Team. The UCF Human Factors in Disaster Management Team has demonstrated areas where mobile devices have been instrumental in improving communication during emergency responses. The team has also demonstrated an increased reliance on mobile communication devices among emergency managers and citizens. The integrated use of these devices has been effective in decreasing “black-outs” in communication.

The emergency management (EM) community is beginning to adapt response processes to include the use of photos, videos and text messages in decision making during a high consequence disaster. The most commonly used activities for phones is changing, as smart phone devices are becoming a standard and can be used for so much more than vocal communication.

International Telecommunication Union Study

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2010, mobile cellular technology is the most rapidly adopted technology in history. Due to the high resilience and global use of wireless communication devices, it is important that the selection and use of mobile devices is strategically optimized. This must be considered so we can continue to improve information exchange between emergency management officials and the general population.

Emergency Response Phones

How Would your Mobile Device Technology Measure-Up during Emergency Response?

The UCF HFDM Team’s research conducted in 2010 resulted in the development of a mathematical model that can be used to evaluate mobile devices utilized by emergency managers and other first responders. The UCF HFDM Team’s study revealed a need for mobile devices that require little cognitive and physical effort.

Their research displayed a need for screens that are compatible with varying lighting conditions and that have considerable durability. Involving physical interaction with the mobile device, it was determined that it is important for these devices to have better grips. Stronger mobile device grips would help minimize slippage and lessen the chances that a device is blown, or pulled from, the users’ hands.

Finally, the UCF HFDM Team identified a need for improved portability with smaller mobile devices. However, the UCF Team noted that emergency mobile devices should never be so small as to hinder the speed or accuracy of text entry.

Signs of Successful Mobile Device Emergency Response Use

The primary characteristics associated with successful mobile device use in emergency management include:
◾Ability for accurate text entry
◾Highly visible screens in a variety of environmental conditions
◾Texture and grips that reduce likelihood of device separation from the user
◾Interfaces that are compatible with other forms of communication (for example, they are compatible with desktop computers in an Emergency Operations Center)

Human Centered Mobile Device Selection for Emergency Response

The results from research by the UCF Human Factors in Disaster Management Team will be used as the basis for a human-centered mobile device selection methodology, for emergency management officials and other first responders.

I look forward to continuing my work in emergency response management and research. Together, STEM professionals can make a huge difference during times of great need.

With Great Confidence in You,


Dr. Pamela Bush—
Dr. Pamela McCauley Bush, Ph.D., PE Professor & Director, Ergonomics Laboratory Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems University of Central Florida

Dr. Pamela McCauley Bush is a nationally-recognized speaker, entrepreneur, author, and tenured Professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems at the University of Central Florida where she leads the Human Factors in Disaster Management Research Team. Dr. Bush has the distinction of being a 2012 U.S. Fulbright Scholar Specialist Program Awardee for her US-New Zealand Human Engineering and Mobile Technology in High Consequence Emergency Management Program. She is the author of Ergonomics: Foundational Principles, Applications, and Technologies and Transforming Your STEM Career Through Leadership and Innovation.

Add a Blog


  1. 245498 457679Jane wanted to know though your girl could certain, the cost I basically informed her she had to hang about until the young woman seemed to be to old enough. But the truth is, in which does not get your girlfriend to counteract employing picking out her very own incorrect body art terribly your lady are typically like me. Citty style 384409

  2. Very great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to mention that I’ve truly enjoyed browsing your weblog posts. In any case I will be subscribing for your feed and I’m hoping you write again soon!

  3. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I’ll make sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly return.

  4. Hiya, I am really glad I have found this info. Today bloggers publish just about gossip and internet stuff and this is really annoying. A good web site with exciting content, this is what I need. Thank you for making this web-site, and I will be visiting again. Do you do newsletters? I Can’t find it.

  5. Thanks for any other magnificent post. Where else could anybody get that type of information in such an ideal method of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I’m at the look for such information.

  6. Good web site! I really love how it is simple on my eyes and the data are well written. I’m wondering how I could be notified when a new post has been made. I’ve subscribed to your feed which must do the trick! Have a nice day!

  7. I am really glad I have found this information. Today bloggers publish only about gossips and net and this is actually irritating. A good web site with interesting content, that is what I need. Thank you for keeping this web-site, I will be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Can’t find it.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here