When a natural disaster strikes, providing emergency medical care and other support is top priority. However, it is crucial to avoid letting the urgency of the moment obscure the need for real-time monitoring and evaluation. As researchers, HITLAB places a high value on efforts to learn lessons from disaster-response activities. After all, investigating which strategies, tactics and technologies worked (or didn’t work) can yield critical takeaways to make response efforts faster, safer and more effective in the next emergency.

What is the best approach to researching disaster-response efforts? What protocols can be put in place before a hurricane or earthquake hits, to strengthen investigations afterward? When is the optimal time to conduct an evaluation? It’s tempting to wait until the smoke has cleared before considering the impact of relief efforts. However, if we wait too long – or if protocols are not designed into the process of deploying interventions – critical information sources may evaporate.

This week, HIT Lab’s Margaret Griffin and Stan Kachnowski are tackling these issues before the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Geneva, Switzerland. They will present some of the Lab’s research around questions of strategy, timing, and all-important preparation when it comes to conducting post-disaster evaluations, particularly related to information communications technology.

Check back here for photos and insights from their trip, and let us know your thoughts on monitoring and evaluating disaster-response activities.