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Using Digital Technology To Prepare People for Disaster

Champions of Change
Our efforts to use modern technology to help everyone get ready for emergencies are vital to support the country’s ability to respond when the next disaster strikes.

Dom Tolli

Drastically improving a person or corporation’s ability to withstand and survive a disaster

I am honored to be recognized as a White House Champion of Change on behalf of the American Red Cross. Our team, composed of people and developers inside and outside the Red Cross, in a very short amount of time accomplished something that will enable people, businesses and schools to drastically improve their ability to respond to, survive and bounce back from a disaster or medical emergency. Having been involved with high tech companies and startups over the last 15 years, I have seen how hard work, brilliant talent and dedication can forever change the landscape.

The American Red Cross has a long and proud history of preventing and alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies. Traditionally, much of the prevention work was done through human interactions at the numerous chapters and volunteers throughout the Red Cross. Digital and mobile technology drastically expands this human interaction and enables people to receive critical information when they need it, where they need it and how they need it.

Mobile devices represent a big opportunity to reach individuals and their families with critical lifesaving information and services. It is the age of cell phones and tablet computers. People of all ages depend on them to keep in touch, to stay informed. These devices are as much a part of life today as important inventions of the past like the automobile and television. As technology has advanced, it is important that the Red Cross move forward too.

Our mobile apps are an important new way to help more people stay safe and know what to do if a crisis occurs. To get critical first aid information into the hands of consumers, my team launched the free First Aid app. To help those in hurricane prone areas or for those with families in those areas, we launched the free Hurricane mobile application. Hundreds of thousands of people downloaded that app as Hurricane Isaac approached the Gulf coast, putting critical weather alerts and preparedness information in their pockets just in the nick of time. These two apps are just the first in a series of the Red Cross plans to release over the next several months.

But it’s not just about getting families and indivduals prepared. Ready Rating is an online program targeting small to medium size businesses and schools with the goal to drastically improve their level of preparedness. Through the generosity of Anheuser-Busch and other corporations, an online service was developed which enabled companies and schools to use a tool to measure their level of preparedness. Being able to actually measure this was quite a breakthrough. Initial users rated the program as an excellent tool and 75 percent took actions to improve their level of preparedness.

The Ready Rating team then expanded the program to include key additional services such as a Next Steps Report which gives the user specific steps and efforts required for a company or school to improve their preparedness level. The Emergency Response Tool Planner enables customers to create a customized emergency plan for their company or school, and a new user experience makes it easier than ever for customers to sign up and use the service. The results continue to be outstanding with nine out of ten customers becoming the most prepared in their industry, recommending this service to other companies.

And we are not done. We plan to aggressively grow the membership of Ready Rating customers and introduce more mobile applications. The bedrock of resilient communities is resilient consumers and resilient businesses and schools. Ready Rating and the Red Cross mobile apps provide the foundation upon which we and others can build.

We here at the Red Cross work year round to make sure our organization is prepared for disaster, whether it is a small, single-family fire or large disaster like a flood or hurricane. Our efforts to use modern technology to help everyone get ready for emergencies are vital to support the country’s ability to respond when the next disaster strikes.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.