Making Space for Disaster Management: A Model of Learning, Experimenting and Sharing
There have been 239 natural disasters recorded in 2023. The United States has experienced 23 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in the first eight months of this year – the highest number since records began.
Weather-related disasters led to 43.1 million displacements of children over the last six years and this number is projected to rise to close to 96 million over 30 years.
Natural and weather-related disasters have increased in frequency over the last few years and with 2023 recording the highest summer temperatures since 1880, there is a renewed sense of urgency to find practical solutions to help the world better survive the next hit.
Building Up Our Resilience
In response, there has been an increasing focus on space technologies as powerful tools to support disaster management. Earth observation satellites, satellite communications, satellite imagery and mapping are some of the myriad tools that can play a pivotal, life-saving role in disaster monitoring, early warning systems, disaster response and recovery, and even disaster preparedness, prevention and mitigation.
The much-improved satellite coverage in the last decade means we can literally see what we were not able to see a few years ago. Improvements in coverage and resolution have leapfrogged in the last decade and will continue to do so.
Availability and accuracy of satellite data today are light-years ahead of the technology just five years ago. Satellite internet connectivity has improved in terms of reliability and speed to reach rural areas.
So, why do communities the world over still struggle with disaster prediction, management and relief?
A New Culture of Innovation and Co-operation is Needed
To truly maximise space technologies in disaster prediction, prevention, management and relief, there needs to be a culture of innovation within agencies involved in disaster management. The pace of innovation is so swift that just as protocols are set in place, new technologies come on line.
A new culture of co-operation is also needed: technology innovation in disaster management is a global shared agenda and one that requires agencies to collaborate across state and country boundaries.
One such effort is the latest project by the Singapore Civil Defence Force to learn, experiment and share current and future disaster management surveillance technologies. A programme designed by Space Faculty, this three-pronged approach is meant to bring a new level of collaboration and innovation among countries like Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and more. While cross-border learning and sharing of insights and innovations is important, the breakthrough for this model comes in its focus on experimentation: the exploration and deployment of new technologies. This model of co-operation creates a virtuous cycle of innovation and adoption – and perhaps sets the tone for regional co-operation in an age where disaster prediction, prevention, management and relief will take centre stage increasingly.