I’ve had many friends say that smart phones have changed their lives, but until recently I had never hear of anyone whose phone had actually saved their life. Enter Dan Woolley, an American making a film about poverty in Haiti, who was buried alive in a Port-au-Prince hotel during the recent earthquake. The collapse that trapped him under rubble also broke his leg and his glasses. He used his digital camera to illuminate and take snapshots of his surroundings – allowing him to see despite his impaired vision. Then, using Jive Media’s Pocket First Aid & CPR iPhone App, he treated some of his injuries. Woolley even set the alarm on his phone to regularly awake him and keep him from succumbing to shock. After 65 hours alone he was saved and has essentially been on a media circuit ever since. Though Woolley mainly credits his safety to God and prayers, he discusses the technological aspects of his survival starting at 1:25 in the following video from the Today Show.
Hand held gadgets have been saving lives during disasters for a while. I remember hearing stories about office workers using their mobile phone lights and illuminated digital watches to help them escape the World Trade Center during the 1993 bombing. Yet the expansive world of smart phone applications has upgraded the role of your personal devices from “flashlight alternative” to “field survival guide.” I think we’ve gotten a little desensitized to the awesome potential of having the collective knowledge of humanity in your hands via the internet. It’s just such a powerful and amazing tool. Even without a live connection, downloaded information can provide valuable insight into scenarios with which we would otherwise have no real expertise. That certainly played a role in saving Dan Woolley’s life, and I’m sure it has done the same for many others in less well documented circumstances.
In fact, the entire scenario (“smart phone helps save life”) seems pretty inevitable in hindsight. Eventually, as the capabilities of hand held devices increases, we could see many more survivor stories spring up. Some companies are leading the way in Apps geared towards disaster relief. A Singularity University start-up called Civi Guard is developing an Android App that uses augmented reality layars to guide citizens to safety after a catastrophe. The Civi Guard App would also work with Government agencies to coordinate evacuations. Even when not in a crisis, applications could make a difference. Once microscopes and remote doctors become a staple of smart phones they may revolutionize first aid. Just remember that iPhone Apps aren’t a substitute for education or experience…yet.
[image credit: Jive Media]