All great ideas, outlined into a framework on which to build!
I have worked in emergency response in both volunteer and professional capacities from local to Federal levels. I have been following the Cajun Navy story with quite a bit of interest. Crowd-sourced disaster response is a unique take on the way emergencies were handled for most of history, with ad-hoc groups coming together and helping those within their community, then dispersing back out to their daily lives. Government led, and funded disaster response is a relatively recent concept. The uniqueness of the recent response efforts is community can now be the entire world, thanks to technology, and responders can coordinate and come together from virtually anywhere thanks to both communication, and physical infrastructure.
I downloaded the Zello app, and have listened to their efforts. It is amazing to hear volunteer first responders (many formally trained) from multiple states coming together, and being dispatched by volunteers from all over the United States to help people in a localized area. I think emergency managers will need to take these responders into consideration in future planning, and would be wise to utilize them as a resource.
My concern with this whole concept is, it falls apart if the public communication infrastructure, and in particular the wireless infrastructure, fails. They do not have access to communication gear provided to governmental organizations, or NGO’s closely aligned with the government. This is why a decentralized network, relatively inexpensive to setup and operate, and capable of robustness and redundancy, is so important. Mesh networks can provide this infrastructure.
One observation I have in listening to Zello, many people are calling in to ask for information, and the dispatchers are constantly directing people to other resources. People understandably want information, and turn to what they feel is a relatively legitimate source. Due to the informal nature of the Zello app (though not the responders using It…they are extremely professional) people will frequently break into emergency communications to ask questions about power outages, wind speeds, weather warnings, and other questions they would likely never consider directing to a more formal dispatch service like 911. This is why I envision people being able to have the ability to quickly access information, even when communication infrastructure fails.