The use of new technologies (e.g. Bluetooth) can improve communication strategies in disaster management situations


Disaster management actors should try to harness the potential of new technologies in order to reach more people and establish a more direct relationship with them (e.g. by using dedicated mobile apps). This can prove beneficial, especially in cases where messages related to disasters are altered by the media.A communication strategy based on new technologies can be successful only if the citizens have access to them and trust them in disaster situations. According to existing research, the technology seems to play a more important role in the pre- and post-disaster stages, than during disasters when some of these technologies may not function or people would not resort to them as much.

Applicable to:

Stakeholders: Policy Makers, Disaster Managers, Citizens

Disaster Phases: Prevention, Preparedness, Response

Types of Actors Concerned: Non-active citizens, Active citizens, Entrepreneurs, Media

Hazards: Natural hazards, Man-made non-intentional hazards or emergency situations, Man-made intentional hazards

Cultural Map Entries:

EMSC (Euro-Mediterranean Seismological Centre) tools for detecting felt earthquakes and for meeting witnesses' immediate information needs, via on social media, websites and a mobile app

EMSC (Euro-Mediterranean Seismological Centre) earthquake tools' effectiveness depends on people's real-time reporting, reactions and testimonials

General description of the LastQuake app

LastQuake app earthquake colour scheme listing

LastQuake app earthquake notifications

Eyewitnesses as the most representative category of LastQuake app users

The development objectives of the LastQuake app

Cultural and interest differences among LastQuake users

Text messages, the most efficient and resilient mode of communication after a disaster

Efficiency of safety check notifications

User behaviour with regards to safety check notifications on the LastQuake App

Use of the safety check feature by region

Advantages and weaknesses of the safety check feature

Further research needed to determine country differences around safety check behaviour

The importance of adapting to users' needs and cultural diversity

The involvement of local emergency services is crucial for the development of international emergency-response digital tools

Use of mobile phone apps and social media usages in disaster situations

Citizens are generally receptive to training as a preparedness measure

Frequency of citizen training as a preparedness measure

Citizen trust or distrust in different types of responders

Smartphone apps vs social media

Correlation between citizen likelihood to use smartphone apps and social media during a disaster

Reactions to testing and using apps for providing information in case of a disaster

Positive reactions to the idea of using of disaster mobile phone apps amongst, largely elderly, citizens who are not active on social media

Training children and adolescents for disaster

Other groups that can act as volunteers during a disaster

Communication platforms that can be used to reach citizens during disasters

Usefulness of smartphone apps vs social media during disaster situations

Technology, gender and social control

Perceptions of technology

Professional cultures and technology use

The role of radio channels in disaster communication

Crowdsourcing in mapping natural disasters

The Community Flood Assessment crowdsourcing map

Citizen cooperation for developing software solutions

Developing innovative technologies for water management

The EMSC crowdsource earthquakes detector

The Citizens Observatories collection and utilization of citizen information

The EU-funded Citi-Sense project description

The EU-funded Citi-Sense project on data gathering strategies

The impact of religion on disaster information needs

Specific use of technologies during disasters

Innovation diffusion

Mobile phone and smartphone use during disasters

Technological adoption in the recovery phase

Age-related factors in technological adoption

Woman empowerment through adoption and usage of technology

Urban vs. rural divide in information seeking behaviours

Cultural impacts on EMSC tools usage

General association with cultural factors: Communication

Implementation steps:

Recommendations on overall principles in using different technologies in disaster communication

A. Cooperate with tech companies to avoid the spread of fake news or generate additional crisis linked to overload of infrastructure. Related cultural factors: Communication

B. Create awareness of possible unintended uses of new technologies (e.g. use of Waze in the Paris attacks). Related cultural factors: Communication

C. Encourage the adoption of new technologies among different age groups, genders and areas (including rural areas). This can be achieved by educating people about the best uses of technologies during all phases of a disaster. Related cultural factors: Communication, Gender roles, Age-related roles

Recommendations on using Bluetooth technology

D. Explore the possibility of using Bluetooth beacons to push messages that provide information about emergency procedures in the entrance areas or focal spots in mass gathering locations, or when entering tourist attractions, the latter ideally in multiple languages. Related cultural factors: Communication

Recommendations on using crowdsourcing and mobile phone-based technologies

E. Use crowdsourcing of information to assess damages done by disasters, raise situational awareness by crisis mapping, and then provide information back to the population. Related cultural factors: Communication

F. In multi-cultural areas and touristic regions, focus on the development and usage of mobile phone-based technologies, which provide foreigners with multi-lingual messages containing emergency information. Related cultural factors: Communication, Languages

G. If they are intended to merely provide information to citizens (rather than citizens submitting information to authorities, or information exchange between citizens), both social media and mobile phone apps are equally useful. Related cultural factors: Communication

H. To improve perceived usefulness and acceptance, any mobile phone app specifically designed for disaster-related information should: a) be seen to be led by public authorities, either on national or even supra-national (e.g., EU) level; b) allow authority-to-citizen, citizen-to-authority, and ideally also citizen-to-citizen communication; c) not only be useful in disaster response but also provide information in disaster preparedness; and d) be pre-installed when purchasing a new mobile phone. Related cultural factors: Communication

I. To encourage citizens to submit information to authorities in disaster situations (crowdsourcing, but also incident-related individual information), use specifically designed mobile phone apps rather than social media. Related cultural factors: Communication

Recommendations on selecting technologies adequate for different social groups

J. Use community radio as an information medium and a strong communication channel for marginalized and vulnerable groups. Related cultural factors: Communication, Social networks

K. Use Internet for communicating information to young people and groups with a higher education, as young people do not watch TV. Related cultural factors: Communication, Age-related roles, Educational system

L. Use television as a most effective technology for communication in terms of coverage especially when targeting households. Related cultural factors: Communication

M. Consider cultural factors in disaster communication. Related cultural factors: Communication


Further reading:

Bachmann, D.J. et al., 2015. Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response: There’s An App for That. Prehospital and disaster medicine, 30(5), pp.486–490. Available at: Id=S1049023X15005099