Debate IT: What role can technology play in times of natural disasters?

Can technology be more effectively utilised to help prevent loss during times of extreme circumstances like bushfires and floods.

Australia's emergency communication systems have been called into question following the devastating bushfires that tore through much of Victoria last week, killing at least 181 people.

Thousands of Victorian customers were cut-off from telephone and Internet services after the blazes melted tens of millions of dollars worth of Telstra telecommunication infrastructure.

The telco lost some 2800 fixed phone lines, 2100 ADSL Internet connections and 47 ISDN phone lines, while eight Next G network and six GSM mobile towers were knocked offline.

Red Cross State Inquiry Centres were overrun by distressed callers seeking information on friends and family, prompting one outsourcer to donate a 40-seat call centre to handle overflow.

Firefighters have laid some blame on stalled upgrades to the nation's emergency communications system, which they say has remained dormant for years.

On the back of pledges to improve national emergency communications by Australia's political leaders, including PM Kevin Rudd, Computerworld asks its readers, what role should technology play to avert future natural disasters? What are some of the ideas brewing in your mind that could come in handy during a natural disaster and which can help save lives, wildlife and property?

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