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Improved Access to Technology Can Save Lives in Emergencies

On October 17, 2013, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will launch the 2013 World Disaster Report (WDR), “Focus on Technology and the Future of Humanitarian Action.” The launch event will be co-hosted by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and the American Red Cross.

The 2013 WDR examines the profound impact of technological innovations on humanitarian action, how humanitarians employ technology in new and creative ways, and opportunities that may emerge as a result of technological innovations.

“New applications of technologies to humanitarian action may be the most important factor influencing humanitarian effectiveness over the next decade” says Patrick Vinck of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and editor of the 2013 World Disasters Report.

The report highlights a number of ways technology is being used to support humanitarian activities, including the American Red Cross Digital Operations Center (DigiDOC). The center, which opened in March 2012, is giving the American public a seat at the table of disaster response. DigiDOC staff and volunteers synthesize social conversations into situational awareness. It allows social media posts from the disaster-affected area to be tracked and integrated into response decision making and truly engages online communities by listening and reacting to those impacted by disasters.

“Technology offers concrete ways to make humanitarian assistance more effective, efficient and accountable,” said Harold Brooks, Senior Vice President of International Operations at the American Red Cross. “It can also reduce the vulnerability of communities and individuals and provide those same communities with new mechanisms to engage in disaster response planning.”

Another way that the American Red Cross is using technology is through a suite of mobile apps. Beginning with the First Aid app, the American Red Cross has since released apps for hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados and wildfires that have helped put critical information into the public’s hands before, during, and after emergencies or disasters. Collectively, the apps have been downloaded more than 2.5 million times to date.

The resounding success of the American Red Cross First Aid and preparedness apps has created a great demand for these simple lifesaving tools in Red Cross/Red Crescent societies around the world. In response, the Global Disaster Preparedness Center, hosted by the American Red Cross, developed the Universal First Aid App, which gives Red Cross/Red Crescent societies access to app development tools, allowing them to localize all of the content and adapt it to their communities needs. In September, the Australia, Canada, China, Ireland, Israel, and Mexico societies launched their apps, giving their communities access to new, life saving technologies.

The report also features an annual summary of global disaster information. Published annually since 1993, the World Disaster Report brings together the latest trends, facts and analysis of contemporary catastrophes and their effect on vulnerable people worldwide. To view the report visit

Contact: Public Affairs Desk, Telephone: (202) 303-5551, FOR MEDIA ONLY

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.