Emergency Management recently posted an article on the adoption of mobile tablets for mobile damage assessments. Software companies are noticing this trend as well. At the Virginia Emergency Management Symposium last week there were three companies that offered solutions mobile damage assessment, including Crisis Track where we exhibited our damage assessment application.
One attendee told me that of the 12 years he’s gone to the conference he’s never seen such a selection for emergency management software solutions with mobile damage assessment capabilities. This is very good for the emergency manager.
What was missing in the article and at the conference was a quick guide for the mobile devices themselves. Based on our field experience, here are some additional considerations when selecting a device for mobile damage assessment:
- Location – Having a built-in GPS is one of the more important features for a tablet whether it be to track your field teams safety or for geotagging your data collection.
- Cellular Data – Data can be uploaded real-time from the field to provide better situational awareness in the EOC. Although when cell service is not available, make sure your applications can still collect data.
- Size – If you have ever been frustrated with trying to hit a small button on a phone, then tablets are for you. Bigger screens allow for bigger buttons. Mid-sized devices such as the Apple mini can more easily be held in one hand.
- Extras – Remember that regular gloves cannot read a touchpad screen but manufacturers are now making inexpensive touch screen gloves. A good cover may be all you need to protect the tablet from a drop.
- Type – Select the mobile device that meets the needs of your organization, not your software. Don’t worry: software companies will make their solutions work on the device that you choose.
- Camera – In our tests camera resolution did not make much of a difference for typical emergency management needs. A camera with a flash does help you with taking nighttime photos
Disk storage may not be as much of a factor for Emergency Management missions. Keep in mind that the more data left on your device the more risk you have losing the data if the device is lost or stolen.