April Mercado: Technology aids disaster recovery
United Methodist Communications will host the Game Changers Summit Sept. 3-5, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. The conference will demonstrate how information and communications technology (ICT) can be used to improve all facets of life. The focus? Helping parts of the world left behind by the technological revolution, to solve problems in education, wellness and community development with cutting-edge communications tools. This article series will spotlight some of the speakers and panelists participating in the Game Changers Summit.
April Grace G. Mercado has seen firsthand how technology can save lives after a disaster. As part of a team sent by United Methodist Communications days after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, Mercado helped assess needs and spread information.
“We connected to the emergency telecom cluster to get our stories out of the area,” Mercado says. “When Haiyan happened, all communication towers were knocked down. Satellite phones were rendered useless because of thick clouds overhead. The only useful form of communication was ham radios.”
The team also distributed solar chargers to survivors to combat widespread power outages, and solar lamps to cut down on using oil lamps, which pose fire and health hazards.
Food, water and shelter are an immediate need in the aftermath of disaster, but Mercado also sees technology as a vital tool in keeping survivors informed of where to find aid, or where to go for safety.
“We could have prevented much loss of life if information had been disseminated properly to the public. That might have saved all the senior citizens and children who perished while taking refuge in the basement of the Leyte Coliseum,” Mercado wrote in a commentary for United Methodist News Service.
Mercado feels that providing technology for disaster relief or for long-term development is an ideal ministry for The United Methodist Church.
“Our world is changing. The church needs to follow the times. It’s important our church follows technology changes to minister to more people, not just typical Sunday churchgoers. You can reach out to more people by social media, you can witness through Twitter, Ustream, Facebook. That’s how I see ICT as being important in ministry of church today.”
*Butler is a multimedia editor/producer for United Methodist Communications.