Information and Communication Technologies

List of surveillance technologies

Posted March 1, 2021 by Soichi Hayashi


Information and communication technologies (ICTs) cover a wide range of telecommunication devices and applications, which facilitate the flow of information.

Within crisis and disaster management, these devices and applications may be used explicitly for hazards or crisis detection, information management, communication, situational awareness, search and rescue efforts, and decision support systems. Everything from cell phones and social media to unmanned aerial vehicles and weather stations are used to collect, disseminate, and monitor various types of information and data to provide a common operating picture. ( Citation: Bennett 2019 )

During a disaster recovery stage, the following communication technologies are often used.

Social Media

Social media are playing a greater role during disasters.

“Social media has revolutionised communication during disasters,” says US’ Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate.

Social media is also slowly turning out to be a live-saving tool. In theory, it is a complete communication model where a user sends out information, receives feedback and responds to it. []

  • People tend to use social media to check on family and friends, seek support, gather news about the magnitude of the disaster and provide ground-zero first-hand accounts.

  • Twitter: The US-based Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stated in its 2013 National Preparedness Report that during and after Hurricane Sandy, users sent more than 20 million Sandy-related Twitter posts with the help of broadband networks. New Jersey’s largest utility company, PSE&G, updated their Twitter feeds and used them to send information about the daily locations of their tents and generators during Hurricane Sandy.

  • Twitter: They channelised the SOS information which was received using the Twitter feeds by running it through a code which separated the SOS tweets from the rest, under #kashmirfloods. This information was then sent to the officials of the Indian Army who used it for rescue operation,” Khursheed added. Major General Shokin Chauhan of the army’s public information office was quoted by The New York Times as saying that the army saved over 12,000 people based on information from social media during the Kashmir floods. [] []

  • Twitter has been widely used by the relief community in a number of disasters to coordinate response. Unlike text messages, users can follow tweeters; ’cards‘ can be included with links to photos, videos and other media; and hashtags help quickly receive or find tweets on a specific topic

  • The Facebook Crisis Response app allows users to mark themselves as safe, reassuring friends and family, provide or seek help, donate money, and receive information.

  • Facebook: Apart from improving rescue and relief operations, people can also use social networking sites to send donations.

Mobile Apps

  • Life360 (provides family location safety, assistance and emerency response)
  • FEMA App (help people prepare before / during / after disasters)
  • Harbor (gamify the emergency preparedness)
  • First Aid: American Red Cross (what to do in case of medical emergency, find nearest hospital)
  • Hurricane: American Red Cross (monitor hurricanes)
  • MyShake (earthquake alerts/monitoring and crowd source data collection)
  • Zello. (walkie-talkie like app)
  • EPA Smoke Sense (citizen science project to understand the effects of smoke on health)


Landline Phone

Perhaps not the most popular option anymore, but having a landline telephone can be a life saver when access to a cellphone or other electronic device is limited or non-existent.

Satellite phone (satphones)

Satellite phones are on the pricier side of the emergency devices spectrum, but are beneficial especially in remote territories where internet access is scarce at best. Some satellite phones have coverage in all parts of the world due to Satphone’s reliance on orbiting satellites for their functioning versus standard cell phone towers.

Two-Way Radio (walkie-talkies)

A two-way radio (also known as walkie-talkies) is a pair of handheld devices that can connect with each other provided both are on the same frequency, within a certain distance. One user can talk while the other listens and vice-versa. These are beneficial to have among emergency responders in the field as a quick way to communicate with each other without clogging up cell phone lines.

CB (Citizens Band) Radio

A CB radio is capable of short-distance communications on various frequencies. It is similar although more complex than a regular two-way radio as it contains more functionality. Because it is open for use for both business and personal use, it is a good source of general information.

HAM Radio

This product is similar to a CB radio besides that it requires the user to be a licensed American Amateur Radio operator; thus giving it a bit more authenticity to the information that is being regulated across the air waves.

Police Scanner

This device allows the user to hear all emergency communication between officials in the police, rescue, fire, respondent, military, and aircraft industries. Although the user cannot broadcast on it, it does allow access to important information during an emergency situation.

Mobile Cell tower

Although mobile network might quickly become overloaded, people can often still use SMS/text messages.

Connectivity Technology – The most powerful tool available during a natural disaster is one that nearly everyone has access to: a smartphone. Quickly deployable cellular data communication platforms can help people stay in contact with their loved ones during floods. These networks can also help authorities communicate more easily with one another and with imperiled communities over social media.


Case Studies


BadGoodNo Info


Disaster ScenarioSocial MediaMobile AppsLandlineMobile NetworkMobile CelltowerSatphones2way-radioCB RadioHam Radio
Civil Unrest


Disaster ScenarioSocial MediaMobile AppsLandlineMobile NetworkMobile CelltowerSatphones2way-radioCB RadioHam Radio
Civil Unrest









Bennett (2019)
(). Information and Communication Technology in Crisis and Disaster Management.,

Edit this page on GitHub